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
Why do we need to start defining God? I suppose as a theologian I should be able to answer that, but as a priest, preacher and praying person I don’t want to. I know that the definition of the Trinity fascinates people, it’s easy to grapple with One God, quite comprehensible to deal with Father and Son, and lets not beat about the bush, yes, we can understand the Holy Spirit, but just what is the ‘Triune’ God of our faith tradition? I’ll share a simple answer, just don’t worry, don’t get worked up about it!
A number of thoughts swirl around my mind at the moment, perhaps it’s the prompting of the Spirit for in recent days I have found a new focus, one little expected, suddenly moving me into action to try and shine a light on the need for new directions, to help change one small area of our national life. You’ll find mention of Stephen Sutton in a number of my recent reflections. He stands for so many other unsung people, young and old who, responding to the Spirit’s gifts in their lives, do what we ought to, reach out in care, love and concern and get on
From time to time the Holy Spirit speaks through events that catch the imagination. I know many of you have been touched by the story of Stephen Sutton, he is, I know just one of many wonderful people who make a difference to life, but sometimes as with the Lord Jesus, his life and death give an extra meaning, an extra something to the wonderful gift of life that we as human beings have. I am not young anymore, but I still feel, love, pray, search, question like a young person. I really hope you do too.
A few weeks ago I wrote about Steven Sutton, that inspiring and courageous young man whose funeral took place on Friday ( 30 May). I was struck by the witness he gave us all, of hope in the face of death, that final leave taking which we all face. I certainly hope that we will do something for him besides his own legacy of concern for young cancer suffers, maybe , as I have written to my own MP, the Prime Minister, it is time to create new awards for service rather than the worn out and archaic honours system
Do animals have morality? In the latest posting on the Jericho Tree, Sr Margaret Atkins writes: Christians and biologists have often, mistakenly, seen themselves as rivals. Both have argued as if there is a choice between science or religion: biology or revelation as sources of knowledge; evolution or God as explanations of our existence; ecology or salvation as giving meaning to our history; concern for animals or concern for humans as generating values; biological or spiritual descriptions as accounts of ourselves.
"Dear brothers and sisters, we have this Advocate; let us not be afraid to turn to him to ask forgiveness, to ask for a blessing, to ask for mercy! He always pardons us, he is our Advocate: he always defends us! Don’t forget this! The Ascension of Jesus into heaven acquaints us with this deeply consoling reality on our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was taken to God. Christ opened the path to us. He is like a roped guide climbing a mountain who, on reaching the summit, pulls us up to him and leads us to God.
The meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday May 25th was yet another milestone on the way towards full Eucharistic unity between Catholics and Orthodox. Pope Francis highlighted that ecumenism especially in the Middle East today was a way of suffering and blood, pointing out that when Christians are persecuted or killed, nobody asks them whether they are Catholic or Orthodox. As they met to pray in that ancient church complex where Christ was crucified and laid to rest
One thing I can’t escape as a Greek-Catholic priest is the constant reference to the life giving Spirit in our liturgy and prayer, we begin each liturgical act with a magnificent invocation to the ‘Treasury of Blessings and the Giver of Life’. In the anaphora( Eucharistic prayer) the epiclesis, that is descent of the Holy Spirit on the gifts, is solemnly and very directly invoked not once but three times and to stress that moment, all the congregation respond Amen, Amen Amen! Then of course there are the wonderful writings of the Saints passed down as living tradition.
Those of us who belong to the UK, by birth, ancestry or immigration, often forget what older generations knew, that we really are an Island nation, surrounded by the sea. Those whose ancestry roots them on these Islands have a deep connection to water and perhaps following community or family wisdom, understand that despite all the modern images of the sea and ocean as enticing, friendly, conquerable, and at our service; water is something humans cannot control, dominate or make subservient to our will. We depend upon the seas far more than
....What must you have been thinking about in the moments leading up to the Annunciation? I’m imagining that you were doing domestic task, quietly and with your face fixed in contemplative concentration on the task in hand, maybe you were humming a tune. I think of you as the kind of girl who liked spending time on her own. Perhaps you were thinking about your approaching wedding to Joseph. You were so young to be getting married, but I hope that even then you were comforted by the knowledge that you were betrothed to
Philip is one of my names, excuse me for being personal, but I believe that the saints, whose names we take also take on us too, so the Sunday Gospel of John 14. where Philip plays a part in it, grabs me somewhat! Philip was called early on to follow Jesus, so he has been with him through all his mission and ministry, but here as John shows us, despite all that he did with Jesus, he still does not understand who he is! In that he is at one with Thomas, both of them doubters! But I feel I must stand up for my patron, he seems to be a thinking person and wants proof; ‘Let us see…’ he says!
So many of us will have been touched by the news that Stephen Sutton, the ‘fund raising teenager for cancer’ died peacefully in his sleep on May 14th. His face smiling from his hospital bed, thumbs up with thanks for all the generous giving to teenage cancer sufferers, is a picture that will remain fixed in the minds of those he loved but also the many people who were caught up in his story even for a moment. I hope, as I am sure so many of you do, that his legacy of courage, dignity, zest for life and care for others will inspire us, especially the young (and the young at heart!).
Last week I was busy working in the USA but took a bit of time out one day to visit the Amish community of La Grange County Indiana, I do this each year and so have begun to appreciate the complex nuances of these communities, both old order Amish and Mennonites. They certainly strike a counter cultural note in the land of the free, but I sense that though many of the tourists admire their vision and way of life (almost but not quite as ‘utopian’), not many could accept their religious teaching. But that’s what holds them together, without that
Journeying is something the human family do a lot of, whether it is simply commuting to work near our homes, straightforward local travels or the adventure of long distance, but as I write this from the setting of the Indiana spring sunshine (later than ours in GB), I am very aware that wherever we go, whatever we do, though places may be very different, people are remarkably similar. We make connections and friends wherever we go, but perhaps especially so with those who belong to the same faith family as ourselves! Luke’s story