Fourth Friday of Lent

Something simple for today.  I invite you to check out a new website.

The Art of Dying Well

art-of-dying-well

The Art of Dying Well is a new website that offers a helping hand to those grappling with issues around death and dying.

Based in the Catholic tradition but open to all, it features real-life stories about the highs and lows of dealing with the final journey.  Professionals in palliative care, ethics, chaplaincy and history have informed the site content.

Why not visit:  www.artofdyingwell.org


Fourth Thursday of Lent

PRAYER THOUGHT FOR LENT (5)

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I need to remember this, Lord:
just to sit in your presence, in silence, is a prayer…

To find a quiet place, to remember you are near:
this is a prayer…
To sit in the stillness, to ponder the mystery:
this is a prayer…
To take a deep breath, to inhale your peace:
this is a prayer…
To hear my heart beat, the pulse of your presence:
this is a prayer…
To close my eyes to the world around, to open my heart to you within,
this is a prayer…
To open my hands, let go my worry and wait to be filled:
this is a prayer…

Though my heart finds no words,
you hear my silent prayer, in the stillness, close by your side…
When I struggle to find even one word to say,
you know before I what my soul wants to pray…
When my prayer spills out all jumbled,
you know precisely what my heart intends…
When I can’t hear your voice,
I trust that your silence begins to answer my prayer…
You read my mind and all of my thoughts;
you search my heart, its sorrows and joys;
you know my plea before I pray…

I need to remember this, Lord:
just to sit in your presence, in silence, is a prayer…

(Fr Austin Fleming aka Concord Pastor)


Fourth Wednesday of Lent

Sorry I’m so late with today’s post!

The Heart of Compassion

Compassionate God,
your generous presence
is always attuned to hurting ones.
Your listening ear is bent
toward the cries of the wounded.
Your heart of love
fills with tears for the suffering.
Turn my inward eye to see
that I am not alone.
I am a part of all of life.
Each one’s joy and sorrow
is my joy and sorrow,
and mine is theirs.
May I draw strength
from this inner communion.
May it daily recommit me
to be a compassionate presence
for all who struggle with life’s pain.

Joyce Rupp

 


Fourth Tuesday of Lent

Prayer for the People of Mosul

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Holy God,
your Holy family was driven into exile
and many holy innocent boys were massacred,
we hold before you today the suffering people of Mosul.
Hold in your loving arms,
all those who have been caught up in this conflict.
We pray for those forced to flee their homes,
all who have lost friends, family and possessions
and who now face an uncertain future.
Bless our Christian brothers and sisters
who have seen the destruction of their churches and communities
and for our Muslim neighbours
who have also experienced destruction and suffering.
Lord, in this city where Christians and Muslims
have lived together for over 1400 years,
we pray for healing, peace and restoration.
Bring light out of this present darkness and hope from despair
that guided by your Holy Spirit,
all your children may find a new way forward together
based on your love for us all.
Amen.

(John Sentamu, Archbishop of York)


Fourth Monday of Lent

THE SUFFERING CHURCH (4)

Eritrea

State repression in Eritrea is so bad that it has been called the ‘North Korea of Africa’, with Christians tortured and unjustly imprisoned in inhuman conditions, and churches under constant pressure and surveillance.  Two-thirds of the 3,000 people in prison for religious reasons are Christian.  Up to 5,000 people every month flood into South Sudan and Ethiopia.  Islamist extremists in Libya routinely intercept refugees, killing any Christians they find.

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Two young brothers journeying to Libya from Eritrea describe having to deny their Christian faith to survive.  Haben, 19, said: “The men come round with Kalashnikov and they ask you what your faith is. If you are Christian they take you away and kill you. They cut off your head or shoot you. This is what they have done to hundreds of Christians.”   “How much longer can this chaotic human exodus go on? … Given that so many of these stories end in tragedy, is there no alternative solution?”

Aid to the Church in Need is backing Church-run projects in Ethiopia and South Sudan, to provide emergency aid and spiritual support and comfort for Eritrean refugee families, many of them traumatised and exploited by traffickers.

We can question why God allows this to happen, why are his followers, 2,000 years later, facing torture and death?  Jesus said he was born to “bear witness to the truth” and Pilate, like many in our world, questioned the existence of truth, saying: “Truth…What is that?”  We do not dare think about the price the Christians in Eritrea are paying for that same truth today, but we believe the one who is the Truth will bring good out of this evil, just as he brought the ultimate good out of his own suffering and death.  Let us challenge ourselves to trust that God holds us all in his care, even when the worst happens.  Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world and neither is ours.

Let us pray

Heavenly Father, we ask for courage for the Eritrean Christians who live in fear. Keep them safe and protect them from those who wish to destroy Christianity.

May our persecuted brothers and sisters know your love and have the grace to stay faithful even under the most difficult conditions.

Give hope and consolation to those whose lives have been uprooted.

Jesus, you who became human to set us free, liberate the thousands who are imprisoned in Eritrea and treated so inhumanely.

Lord, you defeated evil and sin on the cross.  Give comfort to those who are bereaved, stand beside those who are displaced, and conquer all hearts which are hardened to your truth.

(Adapted from Aid to the Church in Need)


Fourth Sunday of Lent

Scripture Reading

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As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

‘As long as the day lasts
I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;
the night will soon be here when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world
I am the light of the world.’

Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.

His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.

They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man. However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’

So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.

Jesus said:
‘It is for judgement
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those with sight turn blind.’

Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:

‘Blind? If you were,
you would not be guilty,
but since you say, “We see,”
your guilt remains.’

Prayer
God our Creator,
show forth your mighty works in the midst of your people.
Enlighten your Church,
that we may know your Son as the true light of the world
and through our worship
confess him
as Christ and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
holy and mighty God for ever and ever.
Amen.

(c) International Committee on English in the Liturgy Corporation.

 


Third Saturday of Lent

SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD

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Scripture Reading  (Luke 1: 26-38)

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

Prayer

Today we celebrate the beginning of our salvation when the coming of the Lord was announced by the angel. Let us pray with joy in our hearts, saying:
May God’s holy Mother intercede for us.

Mary received God’s word with joy,
may joy fill our hearts as we welcome our Saviour.
May God’s holy Mother intercede for us.

You looked with love on your lowly servant,
in your mercy, Father, remember us and all your children.
May God’s holy Mother intercede for us.

Mary, the new Eve, was obedient to your word,
may we echo her loving obedience.
May God’s holy Mother intercede for us.

May God’s holy Mother help all in distress, encourage the fainthearted, console the sorrowful, may she pray for your holy people, for the clergy, and for all women dedicated to your service.
May God’s holy Mother intercede for us.


Third Friday of Lent

BLESSED OSCAR ROMERO (1917 – 1980)

oscar-romero-1

On this day, 24th March, in 1980, Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered as he celebrated Mass.

Romero had been chosen to lead the Archdiocese of San Salvador in 1977, because he was regarded as a safe, conservative spiritual leader who would not challenge the status quo in the small Central American nation run by a few wealthy families backed by the military.

At the heart of the debate over the nature of the Church that ensued during Vatican II was whether God’s entry into human history in Jesus was only for eternal life beyond this world, or if salvation also included God’s presence in the struggle for social justice, human development and freedom from poverty and oppression in this world.

For Romero, the Incarnation meant that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are a present reality, the engine of history, active in each generation of the Church. As the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his flock, so Romero chose to die with his beloved people rather than flee to safety or compromise the Gospel to accommodate the forces attacking the Church. Theology had to grapple with history.

Within weeks of Romero’s installation, one of his rural pastors and a close friend, Jesuit Fr Rutilio Grande, was murdered by government soldiers for supporting the poor campesinos trying to organise for land reform and better wages. Romero emerged from the crisis as a devoted pastor and champion of the people. Six priests and scores of pastoral workers, catechists and faithful Church members were killed in the months ahead. When asked by a reporter what he did as Archbishop, Romero answered, “I pick up bodies.”

He immersed himself in the plight of the victims and their families. He became the voice of the voiceless, using his Sunday homilies, broadcast by radio throughout the country and the region, to tell their stories and to demand that the government account for the hundreds of people arrested, tortured and disappeared as tensions worsened toward civil war.

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Romero was accused by critics inside and outside the Church of “meddling in politics” and subverting the spiritual mission of the Church, which they said was to save souls.

Once Romero had decided to challenge El Salvador’s wealthy minority backed by the army, his fate was joined to the poor majority. His term as Archbishop (1977-1980) became a three-year martyrdom of vilification and constant death threats. Romero and the martyred Church of El Salvador revealed the cost of Church advocacy for the poor.

The historic complicity of the Church with wealth and power was one of the scandals of the pre-Vatican II Church. It continues to be a challenge, as evidenced in recent efforts to cleanse the Vatican bank of secret accounts and money laundering. Pope Francis has insisted that real solidarity with the poor in their struggle to participate in shaping the future for the entire human family is essential to the Church’s mission of evangelisation.

Such a Church will not happen without good leaders. Romero modelled Pope Francis’ image of the pastor “who smells like the sheep,” immersing himself in the lives of workers, students and families, especially children and the elderly. Wherever he went, they surrounded and embraced him. As personal attacks from the highest levels of power increased, even emanating from the Vatican, Romero found solace and strength in the people. He discovered in them what John Henry Newman had called the “third magisterium” – the experience of the laity – which forms the sensus fidelium on which Church doctrine is ultimately grounded.

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Having for so long avoided the path of change, once on it Romero ran joyfully towards the expression of his faith as demanding social action: ‘The world of the poor, we say, is the key to understand the Christian faith, the Church’s activity, and the political dimension of the faith … The poor are the ones who tell us what the world is and what service the Church must offer the world.’

Romero’s ministry is an expression of the power of the Spirit at work in the living Church.

(Archdiocese of Liverpool Justice & Peace Commission)

 


Third Thursday of Lent

Sorry I’m a bit late today!

PRAYER THOUGHT FOR LENT (4)

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Take a moment or two to be quiet in yourself. As you become quiet, gently notice your breathing… As you quieten down, your breathing will slow a little. As it slows, try gently breathing in to the count of 4, holding your breath for a moment, and then gently breathing out to the count of 4. Try this three or four times until you feel calm and relaxed in yourself. Then, very slowly, read the following poem by Edwina Gatreley, a line at a time:

Be silent.
Be still.
Wait before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God knows.
God understands.
God loves you with an enormous love.
God only wants to look upon you with love.
Quiet.
Still.
Be.
Let your God love you.

(From ‘In God’s Womb’ by Edwina Gateley)


Third Wednesday of Lent

Pope Francis on Lenten Fasting

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Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
Fast from worries and trust in God.
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
Faster from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
Fast from words and be silent—so you can listen.