There are plenty of crosses in life without going out to look for them, at least that’s my experience as I’m sure it is yours! Discipleship of Jesus isn’t about creating a scenario for ourselves in which we can practice the Gospel way of life, finding specific people and causes so we can exercise the virtue of love according to our desires. It’s about following Christ and throwing in our lot with his ways! We cannot create an ideal Christian way of life. What we are called to do is love our neighbour in whatever situation we happen to find ourselves and to make that a constant practice!
A few weeks ago while desperately trying to get some news about Mosul and my aunt Sister Utuur, there I stood feeling bombshelled as I read the news I feared most, ‘two nuns, two orphan young girls and a little boy held by ISIS’. Immediately my mind was assaulted by many questions ‘why were they risking their lives, for goodness sake?’, ‘How can God allow this?’ But the biggest and most pertinent question of all was ‘Where is God?’ It was exactly this very question that haunted me for a few months after visiting the House of Terror in Budapest last February.
I’ve just finished a whole series of Oxford Summer Schools, the last being the Theology Summer School which finished on Friday. It’s been an exhausting but fulfilling time and this last week, different Christians from all over the world have come together to study with tutors in the beautiful setting of Christ Church. We always end with a corporate act of worship. This time in the simple space of St Columba’s United Reformed Church we celebrated a short service of word, presided over by the Icon of Christ Pantocrator, the Messiah we worship as Lord and God.
Everyone of us who works with people at a fairly close level, in other words those whose vocation or profession brings them to come into contact with numbers of people each day, will know the problem of burnout. It is inevitable. Anyone who ministers to others, be they social worker, teacher, doctor, minister or quite simply somebody who has a sympathetic manner and a ready ear, will feel exhausted with the constant demand and constant giving. I often just want the persistent demands of others to stop for a while so that I can recuperate, rest, and take stock of my own inner needs,
The Dormition of the Theotokos - Devotion to Mary the mother of Jesus runs deep in the Christian tradition particularly in the East and amongst Catholics. The feast of her Dormition or as the West calls it the Assumption, is a celebration of her sleep in death and her resurrection with Christ Jesus in the life of heaven. This festival originated in the eastern tradition and was universally celebrated, first in the Christian East from the late 5th century and a bit later in the West. But what precisely does it celebrate?
Like Paul I write my reflection ‘with great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart’, for in Iraq and the Middle East our sisters and brothers in the faith and others of different faiths are being exiled, brutalized, maimed and martyred for their faith. We cannot let our world stand by and do nothing, so I and others are trying to get the power shakers and movers to speak out, and those of the household of our faith, especially our shepherds, to stand up and be counted for the sake of these little ones of Christ.
This is one of the best loved feasts of the Eastern Church calendar, for at the heart of the gospel account lies a deep and very rich spiritual theology of what we one day will be! If you know anything about eastern theology you will understand that for them the encounter with God is often about the indwelling light of the Holy Spirit the same brilliant light that Jesus shone with on the mountain, a light beyond all light. This isn’t abstract stuff either, all of us can comprehend the words ‘enlightened’, ‘lit up’ in reference to a person. That indicates a deep inner change, something just shines out of them.
What does it mean for a Christian in fear of their life in Iraq, a Syrian Christian bombed out of home and church or a child whose whose family has been blown to bits in Gaza or somebody with the Ebola virus, to hear those words of Paul, ‘nothing can separate us from the love of Christ?’. Would they find comfort in a pain beyond words, in a loss we can only vaguely acknowledge. This is where pious platitudes and sentimental religion collapse, this is the point where the Christ of salvation loses his clothes and church finery, moves out of a safe sacramental world
Greetings on the Feast of St Ignatius Loyola! See below for links to some reflections on this great saint. In his blog, Schola Affectus writes: This year seems special, here at St Beunos, in North Wales, directing the 30 days – in the silence of the Exercises, at the beginning of the Second Week. Now our retreatants are praying for a growing interior knowledge of Christ. Having meditated on the Call of the King they are now contemplating, step by step, the life of Jesus.
Where are the voices of the international community and our Church leaders about the plight of our brothers and sisters in faith and also others of faith and good will in Iraq? The reporting of what is going on is sporadic and never makes any front page. The silence of the world and let it be said, of many Church leaders, is almost deafening except for the few. The situation there in one of horror and as local Bishops and other leaders have said, this violence, and it is violence of a horrendous kind will, unless it is stopped, spread throughout the whole Middle East.
Schola Affectus writes in his blog: Enjoying the experience of directing a long retreat, 30-days of silence, following the Spiritual Exercises, in North Wales. I am with six other ‘youngish’ Jesuits of my generation, so as well as accompanying people through the four weeks it is great to discuss the dynamics with them (whilst respecting the confidentiality). We are have just spent a few days with the ‘Principle and Foundation’ a consideration that Ignatius gives us before we enter the retreat.
Aspects of our contemporary society in the west are fixated on wealth, status, celebrity. It occurs in almost every group especially those with power attached to their work, such as police, medics, the legal profession, politicians, celebrities, academics, and yes, the Church. Now we know the Church isn’t community of saints, conversion of life is a continual call of the Gospel and we deal with a mixed bunch of people across all continents and islands.
The Hebrew word for a “psalm” is mizmor which translates as “something sung”. The psalmist instructs, “Sing to the Lord with the harp/with the sound of music.” (Psalm 97)... When the psalms are sung their original state is, in some sense, restored and renewed. They are God breathed poems that find their fullest expression when sung – divinely inspired tone poems or as St Augustine describes them, “love songs of our fatherland”… When the Psalms are sung, the heart expands and is more ready to receive God. This twofold effect means
What is happening to the Christian communities in the Middle East is nothing less than martyrdom and destruction of their heritage and our ancient origins. The news in Iraq is more than grim, it is catastrophic, and yet, where is the voice of the Western Christian community? The Anglican Church voted for Women Bishops last week and good for it, but in all their rejoicing did anybody in General Synod raise a voice to speak out for the daily martyrdom and destruction of a faith that has remained rooted in a country and culture for 2000 years? They may have, but all those bottles of champagne
The terrible news of the airline disaster in Ukraine with 298 dead, 80 of them children and the largest group from the Netherlands, with ten British people. This brutal and violent act brings up a tremendous sense of grief, loss, outrage and anger not least for those who have lost loved ones. The pictures themselves are horrible, images of violent and sudden death, it is a tragedy, like all other tragedies of loss, injustice, of cruelty of sin. This alas is the work of what Jesus describes as the weeds in the field, those children of the evil one! It is at times like this
My Patriarch, Gregorious III Laham, Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarch of Antioch (my own diocese) visited London this last weekend. He gave a talk at the Centre for Eastern Christianity at Heythrop College, a Centre with which I am connected as a Fellow and one which is busy trying to help people better know and understand the Churches of the East. But most importantly for the Greek Catholic Melkite Community he served the Divine Liturgy this Sunday with our parish and its two priests and Deacon, Abouna Shafiq, Abouna Robert (myself) and Father Deacon Richard.
Jesus is a great teacher, he keeps things simple and direct but has a depth of knowledge and understanding that allows his hearers to come back to his teaching again and again and find more there. This is something I’ve learnt in all my years of teaching, especially at university level: to communicate is not to aim at impressing your students with your cleverness or great expanse of knowledge, but to share with them, in ways they can understand, all that you want to teach. It’s empowerment, it’s also called wearing your learning lightly so that nobody is put off.
This beautiful series of reflections, produced by Pray-as-you-go, is based on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Beginning with an introduction on the life of this extraordinary Jesuit poet, each eight-minute session then focusses on an individual work. Poems in the series are: The Caged Skylark, The Wreck of the Deutschland, Pied Beauty, As Kingfishers, Felix Randal,
The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is approaching, and another year has gone by. I would like to offer you my best wishes. The day means a lot to all of us, a joyous and deep-felt moment in which we celebrate our devotion to the Mother of the Lord, under the very popular title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. One year more: I would like to commend to her intercession, our dreams and projects, our missions and apostolates, our joys and our concerns. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother and Sister, enlighten, guide and accompany us,
I’m not sure how your lives are organized? If they are remotely like mine it is a relentless ( though at times enjoyable and fun) round of different things. My work as priest, academic and teacher means people are always making inroads on my time and space. The summer, when people assume we are on holiday, is actually one of my busiest times with eight weeks of Oxford International Summer Schools! There will be times during this period when I know I shall be utterly fed up and exhausted
I have been enjoying accompanying the Missionaries of Charity on an 8 Day Retreat. It is always great to see how an Ignatian individual guided retreat (IGR) is so often an experience of renewal. The MC’s founded by Mother Teresa live a very austere and effective form of religious life. Famously only owning two saris, sharing bedrooms, never travelling alone, with all their communities giving hospitality to the poorest of the poor through breakfast clubs, soup kitchens and also summer camps for urban youth.
Memories, stories, experiences – this is the stuff of life! And this is never more true than when one’s life has been touched in a special way by another human being. My life has indeed been touched so many times and in so many special ways by wonderful so-called ordinary people – who were and are anything but ordinary in the way they have witnesses to me. And I have also been touched by human beings who have been and are mentors in my life. I would like to focus on three of them in particular in this reflection
We should really do more to celebrate this great double feast of the ‘glorious Apostles Peter and Paul’, for both West and East have always celebrated it. There has never been any sense that this is somehow just the feast for the Church of Rome, after all, Peter and Paul started the missionary journey from Jerusalem. Peter was in Antioch before he got to Rome and Paul was converted in Damascus. The faith they were martyred for in Rome started and grew in the area now so torn apart by strife and war, where our sisters and brothers, on a daily basis, see people kidnapped and killed for being Christian, where their churches are defiled and their icons and images destroyed, where faith in Christ is a continuing witness of the martyrs, so linked to this feast of Peter and Paul!
We all need to look carefully at the readings chosen for this feast. None of them define the Eucharist in theological terms, it is true that Paul in I Cor 10 talks about the Lord’s body and blood, and John 6: 51-58 has Jesus teaching about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, but the context is, as the sequence tells us, in the sharing and partaking of that food. It is about the one thing we need in order to have life and it is food for our journey! Maybe the desert context of Deuteronomy can help us move a little further into the mystery
Fr Anthony de Mello is the featured Jesuit this month in a special calendar produced by the Jesuits in Britain. In this article for Thinking Faith, Karen Eliasen thinks about why de Mello could have been well-described as a ‘contemplative in action’. The first time I came across Anthony de Mello’s name was not through his writings themselves, but rather through the Vatican’s official response to those writings. This response appeared in 1998, almost ten years after de Mello’s death, in the form of a Notification