Saturday, 31 January 2009

We have not forgotten you


England is not the easiest place to be if you are pro-life. Our laws have enshrined this terrible process as a right of the mother and convinces people that these are the only rights to be considered. However, there are many here who do try to stand out or witness to the rights of the child and attempt to make known the damage done to the mother. We have not forgotten our unborn. The fact that our laws say one thing does not mean that the people who live under them unanimously agree with them. Today I can't help but think back to everything that happened last week and all I can continue to say is that nothing is impossible for God. The fact that I was not standing outside the clinic today does not mean that I have not thought about what is happening today at clinics throughout this country and the world - just the same as it did last week( A morning at the abortion centre). We pray for all the unborn and their mothers- we have not forgotten you. We will not forget you:

Father in heaven
You are the creator of life
Protect all expectant mothers
And the babies they carry in their wombs

We pray for all those
Who are suffering after an abortion
will be open to mercy and love
We ask for the conversion of
all those who fail to respect
the gift of human life.
Heavenly father
guide our hearts to help restore
in the hearts of all people the
sanctity of human life.
AMEN

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

FROM BARTRES

On this day in 1858 Bernadette returned to Lourdes from Bartres where she had been living with her Aunt and watching the sheep. Her asthma had been particularly bad in the winter of 1857 so her mother had sent her up to Bartres where she would be better fed and looked after. At this time the six Soubirous' were living in one room (formerly used to detain prisoners) having lost their Mill (the Boly Mill) due to the increasing pressures of the Industrial Revolution which made it impossible for small mills to survive. However, the priest who had been instructing Bernadette to take her First Holy Communion had been given permission to enter a monastery and was leaving Bartres. For homesick Bernadette this was the last straw - it had been the one thing keeping her there-she went home to Lourdes where she would be able to continue instruction and be with her family. Before she left the priest who had been instructing her marvelled:


"Bernadette, you know nothing but you understand everything!"


In fourteen days the Virgin Mary would appear to her in the grotto where she was collecting firewood.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL


Today is Holocaust Memorial day in Britain and the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the allies. I am due to visit Auschwitz in March- I am taking two Sixth Form students (aged 16/17) and I have to confess I am a little nervous to go there because of what was done there and the sadness I feel- even at this distance from it. Faced directly with this evil; the place where innocent people were tortured and died I don't know how I will interact with an environment like that. I have to be supportive and responsible enough to sustain my students as they encounter the reality of it. I hope I will be strong enough. Its not that I don't think they should see me cry or express emotion- on the contrary I would be proud to show my feelings about the death caused by hatred and senseless persecution- it is that I know I must have enough strength in me to understand and convey that this is not where it ends. This terrible place designed for cruelty and death shall not triumph. I know that the great Maximillian Kolbe and Edith Stein entered this place and refused to let it degrade them. I am honoured to walk where they did. It is love like theirs that transforms pointless hatred into exemplary love. I thought I would hand my blog to someone far worthier than me to comment:


From John Paul II's speech at Yad Vashem March 2000:
The words of the ancient Psalm, rise from our hearts: "I have become like a broken vessel. I hear the whispering of many - terror on every side - as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'you are my God."'

In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah.My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the war. I remember my Jewish friends and neighbours, some of whom perished, while others survived. I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain.Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children, cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism.

How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had reached the point of contempt for God. Only a godless ideology could plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people.The honour given to the 'Just Gentiles' by the state of Israel at Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest hour is every light extinguished. That is why the Psalms and the entire Bible, though well aware of the human capacity for evil, also proclaims that evil will not have the last word.Out of the depths of pain and sorrow, the believer's heart cries out: "I trust in you, O Lord: 'I say, you are my God."'Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing from God's self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good. We remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past.

Monday, 26 January 2009

LOVELY!!!!!!!!!

Thank you so very much to Joyful Days (pop in there if you have time http://ourjoyfuldays.blogspot.com/ -a great blog!) for this award- my first ever!

I have been enriched and continue to learn from the incredible strength, faith and fortitude of the amazing Catholics who take the time to blog. Thank you for welcoming me and giving me a place among you. It has been a great grace in my life.

The award says: “These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

I want to pass this award onto:
To Dismas at http://hopefordismas.blogspot.com/ who only started blogging recently and is going great guns!

To Ponte Sisto Pellegrinaggio crossing the Ponte Sisto one of the first Catholic blogs I came across

To Totus Tuus Family & Catholic Homeschool which I only discovered recently

I also want to offer it to people who I know have received it already but I feel write a great blog- I want to offer it right back to Joyful Days which is a wonderful blog, Lisa at Are We There Yet?, Therese at Aussie Coffee Shop, Esther at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii, Sarah at Ora et Labora - A Faithful Catholic Blog, to Lisa at Catholic Teacher Musings , Grandma K at A Bit of the Blarney, Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart and Tracy at A Catholic Mom in Minnesota (I've already broken the rules by adding far more than 8)

...AND ALL THE GREAT BLOGS ON MY FOLLOWERS LIST OTHERWISE I'LL BE HERE ALL DAY BECAUSE THERE ARE MANY, MANY, MANY OF THEM :-)

-Also, just a note to say I have added a slightly lengthier video of Bernadette's body from my time in Nevers to my original post as I promised some readers I would. I am only sorry that it has taken such a very long time. From Lourdes to Nevers

Saturday, 24 January 2009

A morning at the abortion centre

It is not easy to write about what I have witnessed today and even though it is not the first time I have seen it, it does not make it easier to watch. I spent this morning quietly praying outside an abortion clinic with a group of pro-lifers while, on the other side of the street, 'pavement counsellors' offered to speak with women as they entered the 'clinic'. By the admission of the friars who organise these vigils it was a 'busy' morning. Nothing is ever simple about abortion or the circumstances of the people entering the centres. The only word I can think of is devastation. The counsellors do not harass the mothers, simply offer them the opportunity to talk and if the mother agrees they listen compassionately and try to present the other side of the story as best they can.

Many things happened today some of them uplifting, some of them heart wrenching and all of them requiring, if you are able and willing, your prayer. It is a clumsy way to write but the only way I can think to organise this entry is to break it down into subheadings of events so that it will be easier for me to convey and hopefully for you to get an overview of everything that occurred to the soundtrack of our prayer. I don't know why I feel it is so important that I try and tell you these details but I know that it is important so thank you for reading.

The staff

This is the first time that I have joined the group at this particular centre and the first thing that struck me about it was the irritation of the staff. At other clinics I have been to the staff have let us get on quietly while they ignored us. Today two of the staff came and stood directly opposite us outside the clinic for the entire time we were outside which was most of the morning (we stay on the other side of the road since it is a very narrow British road). We aim to keep far enough away to let the pavement counsellors work but close enough to be a visible witness for the unborn. We never approach anyone or interfere. There is no reason for them to be threatened but they were clearly angry with us. Every time a woman about to enter the clinic walked up the road they would try to rush her in so the counsellors couldn't speak to her and she would not see our placards of unborn children. When no one was coming the two women would stand staring at us with defiance, sometimes they would crack a joke or laugh. They wanted us to know they didn't care. However, if they really didn't care they wouldn't be standing out there in the freezing cold in the first place.

Abortion is big business they were worried we might disrupt their income . Perhaps they also believe they are protecting the rights of women. Their faces were so hard and angry when they caught our gaze. When I was a bit younger, in my teens, I would have felt angry right back out them. Now I feel an overwhelming sadness for them because if they think that leading women up the steps to that place (and I watched them lead a lot of women today) is protecting their dignity they have been horribly misguided and, in a strange way, wronged.

Please pray for them and all those who work in clinics believing they are justified and right to do so.
May bitterness and anger never have the last word

The Police

The police, a supposedly neutral force, were required to be present to ensure that both 'sides' co-exist peacefully. They were not neutral, don't get me wrong they were competent and pleasant in escorting us, but at the clinic they stood on the other side of the road with the staff and laughed and joked with them. They allied themselves closely with the nurses. They treated us rather more distantly and did not stay close to us. When we were back at the church we thanked them for escorting us and they were cold.

Please pray that those who aim to defend life will be treated with dignity and fairness by those who do not understand or sympathise with our values.

The dog walker

As I have attended vigils, rallies or protests about abortion over the years I have got used to being shouted at and openly verbally abused. I was always told that this is a hopeful sign because this anger is a reaction to the knowledge their soul instinctively has- this is wrong! We only had one case of that today but the reason I bring it up is because it was a poignant example of how abortion affects women.

The woman in question was in her late fifties and walking her dogs, she started shouting across the road at us and then progressed to yelling expletives. As she moved down the road one of the counsellors asked her gently if she would like to take a leaflet and she began to verbally abuse the counsellor. However, the counsellor stayed calm and gave our perspective about the life of the child and showed the leaflet with the stages of development on it.

It transpired that this woman was pro-choice because she herself had an abortion at the same type of clinic as this. The counsellor asked if this might be why she was so angry; she was not angry with us- she was still angry about her abortion and being reminded of it caused her pain.

She gave the counsellor her name and agreed to take a leaflet with a contact for proper post-abortion counselling . I think this was a big breakthrough for her. She also gave her name in order that we could pray for her- she does not believe in God - but never mind I am sure he believes in her!

Please pray for Carol (the woman in question) and all women, all mothers, affected by abortion.
May bitterness and anger never have the last word.

The Women

It would be easy to write something the length of a book about the women I watched walk up the steps to that place today and to talk about the expression on the faces of women leaving. Some were with boyfriends, others clearly with friends and some young girls were obviously being marched in there with parents; bewilderment and distress on their faces- still just children themselves.

Pray for all women, all mothers, who abort their children
Pray for all women who abort their children under duress from parents or partners
Pray for those who enter into willingly abortion

The Family

This is the hardest thing that I saw happen today. I don't even know how to recount it but I will try. A woman arrived with her partner and began speaking with the counsellor. It became clear that the woman's boyfriend did not want his partner to have the abortion- they already had two children. They talked with the counsellor. The women went in BUT a few minutes later she came back. She spoke with the counsellor again. Things seemed to be going better. She said she no longer wanted the abortion and he partner was relieved BUT she needed to go back and tell them she would not be taking up her appointment.

She never came back out of the clinic. When she went back in the staff in the convinced her that she did want the abortion after all. She phoned her husband on her mobile to tell him "I'm sorry I'm going up" by which she meant "up" to have the abortion carried out.

Please pray for all families torn apart apart by abortion.
Please pray for all vulnerable mother's preyed upon those who promote the culture of death.

The ray of hope - LOTS OF PRAYERS NEEDED

After that story it might be easy to become downcast but there was so much grace to be felt in the prayer today and this was increased by a chance encounter. A man pulled over in a van and asked one of the counsellors for help. His girlfriend is due to have an abortion next Friday but he so wants her to have their baby. He asked for all the information he could get. The counsellor told him everything he could, gave him lots of literature and told him we would pray. So.....

Please pray for Darren and Jessica, that Jessica will turn away from abortion and realise the humanity and beauty of her little child.

The Babies

I am aware of the death of fifteen babies today. I stood outside the building and prayed while these children's lives were taken legally and silently. The world carried on around us none the wiser. This was just one clinic. This afternoon I went to central London to Westminster Cathedral and somehow everything seemed a little absurd-people out having a great time in this big, heaving city so unaware. How can the events of this morning happen each day and everyone be so oblivious?

It is because the unborn are easily disposed of. They have no voice and no way to make their cry heard. So let that be our job. (See earlier post for text on this WITH A LITTLE BIT OF GRACE - FOCA )

Please pray for the little children who were murdered so quietly today behind the closed doors and rolled down blinds of abortion clinics.

Please pray for all those babies at risk of having their lives snatched from them through abortion.

Please pray that our laws will prevent these deaths and reveal the true meaning of respect
-for life
-for child
-for mother

A linked post which will tell you a little about my families experiences WALKING THE WALK - CHOOSING LIFE

Friday, 23 January 2009

PRAYERS FOR THOSE ON THE MARCH FOR LIFE


I offer my prayers with those of many others for the March for Life. May the voices of protest reach the souls and hearts of those so determined to see the unborn child as a creature without rights.
May we walk with you in spirit in time to the little heartbeats-in the hope that the real meaning of dignity and respect will be upheld. May the value of human life at every stage be truly recognised and respected.
I am going on a small scale pro-life prayer march myself tomorrow-unfortunately many of the points that FOCA wants to put forward in the US have long been practised here. All that is left for us to do is keep praying, keep our chin up and try to make our stand. Pray for us!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

NOTES ON SUDDEN LIGHT- gaining strength where it seems there is none

Well that really does work. As my day has gone by chinks of light have broken through and dispelled the muddy grey. Many of those chinks have been of your making so thank you! My desk is still messy as hell but whatever. I have been thinking today that without the challenge we would be so much weaker. The broken history of England's Church means you are never short of a challenge but it makes the triumphs even brighter. At Cambridge we had an amazing Catholic chaplain who made sure that every month we would have mass in a different college chapel. As many of you will know many of these chapels date back to before the Reformation. Each of these masses felt like coming home. That is not to say that the Christians who prayed in these churches the rest of the time were not worthy Christians or that their prayers are worth less but simply that these were built as Catholic churches before 1536 and to bring Christ back felt quite electric.

Of these masses I had two favourites; one in Kings chapel which is large and overwhelming but that day had a presence which I never felt there before that mass and never again after as the sun came through the windows and hit upon the raised host. Suddenly that whole place felt smaller-like it had come into focus. The other was on bank holiday Monday in May when we would dress in our academic gowns and celebrate the life and death of John Fisher. This saint founded two of the colleges but, when he refused to refute his faith, found the University turned against him and made him an exile. For the Medieval church of St Mary's to be filled with candles- celebrating him at the heart of his University five hundred years after his death is evidence- there is a greater plan-faith will triumph...in the end

Notes on a grey day


I woke up this morning and the world just seemed grey and a littler sadder than ususal. My desk is a stack of tumbling papers and even though I feel tired I know I will have to try and be the best teacher I can be today - beacause that is what I do.
When I look at the little prayer of Bernadette in my last post I know that in the grand scheme of things my little woes are nothing. In spite of terrible physical suffering and separation from her family she embraced life with a sense of peace, joy and absolute abanndonment. I need to get working on that.
So instead of letting the grey sky defeat me. I decide to think of all the things I am thankful for. Most of all I am thankful because my faith gives me perspective to see beyond my own weakness and little sufferings. I can join my prayers, as Bernadette did from the sick bed she called her white chapel, to all the masses in the world- because whatever time of day it is here it is likely that somewhere in the world someone is deep in prayer before the consecration. How can the world be grey and sad when this is true?
I am not alone.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Prayer of a poor beggar

I am so tired today so I am going to let someone more spiritually competent take the reigns- St Bernadette (no surprise there then).
I love this prayer but I am a little scared of it because it is submission in its truest sense and that ability to give yourself totally to God is amazing. I hope to be worthy of repeating these sentiments one day.

Prayer of a poor beggar to Jesus
O Jesus

give me, I beg you

the bread of humility

the bread of obedience,

the bread of charity,

the bread o strength to break my will

and mould it to yours,

the bread of interior mortification,

the bread of detachment from creatures

the bread of patience to bear the

the sufferings my heart endures


O Jesus

you want me to be crucified, fiat

the bread of strength to suffer as I ought,

the bread of seeing you in all things

and at all times

Jesus

Mary

The Cross

I want no other friends but these

St. Bernadette suffered a great deal in her life- she had difficulty breathing and died of, among other things, TB of the bones which is excruciatingly painful- she was only 35. By the end of her life she could not walk at all. She embraced life with a sense of humour and joy. Most of all I think about how she left her beloved family and beautiful Lourdes aged 22 never to see either again. She longed for her grotto and for her family yet she accepted the will of God with joy. True inspiration on a cold winters night, after a long day.

I'm getting an early night- goodnight dear friends!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

LITTLE LIGHTS - dedicated to you!

As long as there is faith there is always hope. At Lourdes the torchlight procession symbolises this; the light in the darkness. But it is not one light- it is countless little lights all glowing and moving in unison that set the place aflame. Alone they would not make much of an impact but  when they come together they light up the night.

Those lights symbolise all of you. 
This is the core of hope
And this should lift all our hearts wherever we are in the world because our faith and our prayer unites us and brings us together in light- around the source of all things. I follow many wonderful blogs and this is how I see them and their readers- as those little lights gathered around a great and inextinguishable light; the light of the world.

Please continue to pray the NOVENA of LIFE or whatever prayer you feel most potent that FOCA will not be passed in as little as a matter of days (see earlier post WITH A LITTLE BIT OF GRACE - FOCA for more information and pro-life poem) Thanks to all those who have read this earlier post and commented -I have replied to all of you. May we continue to unite in prayer for the chorus of tiny beating hearts which are being threatened in the one place they should be assured of safety.

Monday, 19 January 2009

HOPE?


This weekend I went to the cinema to watch the movie Slumdog Millionare and I loved it. It wasn't easy to watch its graphic portrayal of poverty and violence against the world's poorest children. However, its ultimate message was one of hope in its truest sense- of that desire to live and find joy in the darkness and turmoil of pain. These children carry a great burden on their shoulders- the burden of inequality. I know that as someone born and raised in a wealthy Western country I am guilty of having far more than I need to live. 'The poor you will always have with you' Why? because our priority will always be to make sure that we are safe first. As this economic crunch comes upon us I cannot say I am glad or that our struggles will be justified but if we are looking for any kind of silver lining perhaps it is that the material wealth that has become the god of many will be shown to be fallible. Maybe it will show that wealth is not forever and it is not rightfully ours. We have been fortunate but that does not necessarily mean we have been deserving. If anyone deserves better it is those little children who wake up every morning to spend their days scrabbling through the dirt looking for anything they can eat or earn from in order to eat. Their desperation may lead them to steal, or beg but surely we cannot condemn them for this until we have offered them an alternative or truly tried to understand them.

On Saturday I am going to pray with Friars of the Renewal near the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Woodford Green, close to where I live. These are the other children it is so easy to forget. I am proud to be Catholic when I think about the fight for the unborn. The fact that we have continuously upheld their rights.

As Obama enters the White House I have HOPE. I might not have a hat that says it in big letters but I have it in my heart because I know we will continue this fight. I know that we will never give up on the poor and the marginalised, we will never give up turning away from the material and seeing the greater value in man. I know that we will stay true. As individuals we will obviously make our mistakes but as a Church we will carry on. In England Catholics are a minority and our abortion laws are incredibly liberal and continue to become more liberal still. However, we have not resigned our fight and we never will. This is the real a hope. The hope that comes with knowing human life is worth more than any paper printed by man which says it is alright or even right to harm another person. It does not stop with us- it simply begins with us.

Descartes said that man is between God and nothingness and he must choose...
****

Please continue to pray the NOVENA of LIFE or whatever prayer you feel most potent that FOCA will not be passed later this month (see earlier post WITH A LITTLE BIT OF GRACE - FOCA for more information and pro-life poem) Thanks to all those who have read this earlier post and commented -I have replied to all of you. May we continue to unite in prayer for the chorus of tiny beating hearts which are being threatened in the one place they should be assured of safety.

Friday, 16 January 2009

FIVE QUESTIONS

These are the questions given to me by Aussie Therese over at Aussie Coffee shop. Here are the rules:

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me".
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5.When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

So it is now over to ME to interview YOU- if you want to be interviewed by ME just pop a comment in the comment box. Hope my answers are not too long and dull.

Thanks!

Please continue to pray the NOVENA of LIFE or whatever prayer you feel most potent that FOCA will not be passed later this month (see earlier post WITH A LITTLE BIT OF GRACE - FOCA for more information and pro-life poem) Thanks to all those who have read this earlier post and commented -I have replied to all of you. May we continue to unite in prayer for the chorus of tiny beating hearts which are being threatened in the one place they should be assured of safety.

1. What is the best place you have traveled to?

Apart from Lourdes and Nevers- which would be obvious- I think it has to be Tanzania in East Africa. It is a beautiful country and I got to see incredible things and meet incredible people. I went to Ngororo crater which is a natural wonder of the world and marvelled at the amazing expanse of the world and God. I also saw how much of a struggle life is for some people- how they accept it with great joy and a sense of perseverance- obviously not all of them but many of them. Most of all I got to meet the children and I don't think a day passes when I don't think about the kids in the orphanage I visited- about leaving them standing at the gate as we drove away. I think about them standing in the T-shirts that went down to their ankles and I think about how wet their cheeks were with tears when they were sitting on my lap. I think about how easily they came to us and how they didn't want to let go. The orphanage was run by nuns, the superior herself was disabled- they had lots of help but also lots of kids and they seemed loving but exhausted.

The most uplifting part of the trip was when I visited the school run by the order of St. Francis De Sales. I saw how close the priests and nuns were to the community, how much they were relied upon and loved. They ran two schools and a hospital- providing glasses- they were making a HUGE difference to the lives of the people. I realised very quickly that they were really living the Gospels.

I also had a great time with my friends. My best friend (and current flat mate) was living there at the time and there was a lot of laughing like maniacs and winding each other up. It was perfectly balanced trip.

2. If you could go anywhere in the world for free where would you go and why?

Hmmmmmm I think I would go to the Holy Land and try to get a sense of where Christ walked, the land that surrounded him and the sky he looked at. I would like to be in Jerusalem where the three major world religions meet. I would like to talk to lots of people and get their perspective on things.

3. Why did you start blogging?

This is a hard one- it started when I was looking up action I could take over the FOCA bill from abroad- what I could do to support Catholics in the States. I started googling and came across a couple of great blogs. I had never even seen a blog before- just heard about them. Suddenly this whole world opened up. I am one of those people who writes to live. Writing is like breathing and I guess I thought- why don't I share what I love most; my writing and my faith? I tend to write mostly about my faith in my journal and I wondered if what I had written over time might appeal to people. I wanted to tell people about why I love Catholicism and what brings me to my knees. I wanted to tell them that they are loved. I wanted to defend the life of unborn children.

I was utterly uncertain anyone would want to read it- after all I am not a philosopher or a priest or a specialist. People seem to be reading and I seem to learning so much from others I don' t think I will ever be able to give up now that I've started.

4. Do you have a favourite saint story?

Well I am going to go with the obvious one I am afraid. Bernadette of Lourdes. She never ceases to amaze, inspire and speak to me. Bernadette was like a window, through which you can see across the divide between this world and the other. She had a beautiful privilege and grace but always remained so humble and aware of her own flaws- she was not someone who floated around cloisterswith her mind on great concepts (although this is important too). She was someone who got down in the dirt with the rest of us and tried to be holy every day. What impresses me most is the sheer purity of her truth "I have nothing to fear because I have always told the truth" "I am not here to make you believe me but simply tell you what I have seen" and the wisdom which came from her simplicity "God speaks to the heart without the noise of words".

Finally to look upon her body. What more can I say? From Lourdes to Nevers

5. Do you like to eat seafood?

I love the stuff!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

VIRTUAL LOURDES


videoFor those who are far away or have so many commitments that you cannot possibly make it to Lourdes -I wanted to bring just a little of Lourdes to you. So many have left such beautiful and moving comments about longing to go there. I am praying you all will but until then I hope this little video I filmed while walking around the grotto will help. If you turn up the volume you can clearly hear the water of the miraculous spring Bernadette dug and drank from at the bidding of Our Lady. I hope it will give you a sense of, and fill you with the peace of the place...


If you can imagine silence and a feeling of being accompanied-of being known truly from the inside out, like being at mass but stronger and deeper. If you can imagine a sense of gazing in wonder as Bernadette did; a feeling of being utterly humbled before a presence much greater than yourself. If you can imagine hope surrounding you and a certainty that there is a mother listening to the whispered prayers that rise from these mountains. If you can listen to the water of the spring, which releases thousands of gallons to the faithful but started as a muddy spring dug by a little girl, and hear the will of God. If you can sense that you are truly loved and understood. You are already there.


******************

Please continue to pray the NOVENA of LIFE or whatever prayer you feel most potent that FOCA will not be passed later this month (see earlier post WITH A LITTLE BIT OF GRACE - FOCA for more information and pro-life poem) Thanks to all those who have read this earlier post and commented -I have replied to all of you. May we continue to unite in prayer for the chorus of tiny beating hearts which are being threatened in the one place they should be assured of safety.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A Reflection in Darkness

Please continue to pray the NOVENA of LIFE or whatever prayer you feel most potent that FOCA will not be passed later this month (see earlier post WITH A LITTLE BIT OF GRACE - FOCA for more information and pro-life poem) Thanks to all those who have read this earlier post and commented -I have replied to all of you. May we continue to unite in prayer for the chorus of tiny beating hearts which are being threatened in the one place they should be assured of safety.

A Reflection in Darkness
I wrote this recently while on a resedential duty with the kids at school (for those not familiar I am a teacher) they had been running about and giggling in their night dresses and suddenly it all went so quiet and it was just me in the silence. There I was sitting on the sofa at the end of this empty corridor waiting to catch a whisper or a smuggled giggle...and writing.

In the silence of night it is possible to feel the sacred very close to you. To recognise it in that deep part of you that remains touched only by God. I feel it now. In the stillness of the trees outside, in the gentle ticking of clocks and in the black of night; the sacred, waiting hand lies open, hoping to be touched. There is a wholeness in the silence - it is whole and rhythmic - like one deep and consuming breath of life.

And I know that the the deep, deep mystery whcih dwells within and around is very close indeed.

This is the glorius nothingness of life, perhaps what eternity feels like; calm and still - like it is not moving forward but also, it is not static , it is living and filled with expectancy. It is the very tip of being. The edge of life where the mystery and clarity come very close together, so close that they are almost touching.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Jubilee Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes

I have posted the Jubilee prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes at the side of the blog. I think it is rather beautiful and hard to attain unless you were able to visit Lourdes last year. I hope, if you were not aware of it before, it will be a prayer you find enriching. Thank you!

Ever wondered how they keep Mary looking so 'immaculate'? I took this picture  of my favourite statue being prepared for her close up on the 11th of Feb last year when TV cameras were gearing up to film her 15oth anniversary feast day.

I have also added video footage I took of Bernadette's body in Nevers to my post 'From Lourdes to Nevers', its a little shaky but you should get the idea. Please see the post from the 27th of December for this. From Lourdes to Nevers

For pro-life prayer update see below, including a poem for the unborn WITH A LITTLE BIT OF GRACE - FOCA

Friday, 9 January 2009

The loss of a little witness

On Tuesday I lost my Miraculous Medal- I have searched for it in vain since then. I was given it for my First Holy Communion and have worn it ever since with a cross- except for one other period in my life when I was separated from it. The clasp on my chain broke and it must have slid off without me feeling it. I have stormed poor Saint Anthony with prayers but still nothing. I have lost it once before- when I was at secondary school I put it in my tennis racket case, it sunk in to the lining and for a couple of years I thought it was gone. It appeared again when I was helping clean out the garage, I was about to put my old tennis racket in the box for the charity shop when I thought I would just open the case and check there was nothing in it. I held it upside down and out dropped the medal. It was like receiving the gift all over again- it also came back to me the day before I went to Lourdes and this seemed significant.

I know that at the end of the day it is just a material object but I feel a little sad about the loss of it. I saw it, along with my cross, as a small witness in the world- people did ask about it and even when I was in Zanzibar it was commented on in a positive way twice in a very short space of time- one of the men sitting at the doorway shouted out 'Hey a Christian- you are welcome here' (Zanzibar is 99% Muslim) and this was a nice thing to hear. I feel that in losing it I have lost a little of that witness. However, when I was speaking on the phone with my mother last night I mentioned it and she said quite simply 'perhaps someone needed it more' and I have to say that gives me comfort. So I have altered my prayer to St Anthony a little; that I might find it provided it has not been found by someone who deeply appreciates and needs its protection.

I love the story of the Miraculous medal and feel it is inextricably bound to that of Lourdes. Catherine Laboure felt that the reason for the Virgin Mary's appearance in Lourdes was due to the failure of people to listen to the messages passed on to Catherine. Indeed, the summer I worked in the baths at Lourdes the prayer on the miraculous medal was said each time we bathed someone. I guess when you lose something you are fond of- you gain a whole new appreciation for it. Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

WALKING THE WALK - CHOOSING LIFE

I had a brother named Garvan. He had been ill since he was born, he had no thumbs, was small for his age and had a rare blood disorder. He spent a reasonable amount of time in Great Ormond St Hospital in London. The death of a child is a terrible thing and I have many memories of Sunday at the cemetery with my parents and siblings. And tears- lots of tears. However, Garvan was one of the great lights in our family and one of four very different children. He was bright, loved maths (unlike me!), loved spaghetti (like me), was a brilliant artist and his writing at 12 was neater than mine is or will ever be (even though he had no thumbs). He knew he was not like other children and he put up with their questions patiently and with excellent humour. He also understood he was dying. He had asked my mother and she had decided to be honest and tell him that it was a possibility.


This knowledge gave Garvan a wisdom that no one had really expected. One day he told my mother that she should think about having another baby and that is why I am sitting here writing a blog. He said she needed someone else to hold when he was gone (since my other brother and sister were slightly more grown up) and that someone was me- my mother laughed it off but it obviously planted a thought in her head. She maintains that having a young child when Garvan died helped her to cope better than she otherwise would have. We still celebrate having Garvan in our lives and light a candle at the Christmas table to signify his presence.


Today children like Garvan are unlikely to have the chance to be born. Garvan loved life so much and knew how to live it with the most amazing gumption – probably because he knew there was a lot to cram in. He may have suffered but because of this suffering his understanding of the value of life became quite profound- profound in the most simple and honest sense. When I started this blog I wasn’t sure how much personal information it was appropriate to share-since I had never really read any blogs now I have read lots of brilliant ones and realise that sharing is a vital part of it- I now realise that it is important I tell you this. I wanted anyone who reads this to know that when I talk about living with a disabled child I recognise how difficult it must be to choose - I do not have my head in the clouds – I am aware of the reality; the pain and the joy. I want people to know that I choose life, that my parents who loved their child and had to endure him suffering would also choose life. Why? Not to validate their own choices but because that is what this amazing little boy – who is still so much part of our lives- would have chosen. The simple truth.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Learning not to have more but to be more

I am back at work today in a flurry of snow and blizzard, all the kids are full of joy, happy to see each other. I have spent the last few days marking mocks for one of my exam classes who I have last thing this afternoon. They are a hard class, by which I mean they have not had the best experience of the education system and they treat teachers with a type of suspicion. Maybe they are right because today I will have to give them back their results and I know they will be disappointed and disheartened by the grades they receive.

I want them to believe, as I said in my earlier post (Totus Tuus) that they have an inestimable value and no matter what mark they get for their paper they have so many gifts and talents. We raise people to be competitive, to want the best and step over others to get it. Why? It will not make you happy when you get to the top and survey the wasteland you have left behind you.

Jean Vanier founded communities which many of you may have heard of- they are called L’Arche and care for the marginalised of society-adults with learning disabilities- Jean Vanier worked as a University lecturer and wrote a doctorate on Aristotle. However, his path then led him into contact with people with learning disabilities and suddenly he knew his calling, rejecting the highly competitive world of academia. For him these people were the purist reflection of God, the poor who in every society have been rejected. His homes now exist all over the world- they are communities in which all are equal whether disabled or not. Together they pray and rejoice and share their lives. These people, not those in his academic experience, were the greatest teachers Vanier had ever encountered.

Our world would see these people destroyed before they were born; wiped from our lives. Should we really measure our success by such a society? I believe not and I will do my best to make my students believe that. If they don’t believe me today perhaps they will look back a few years down the line and agree that the paper (which I spent a long time marking) did not tell them anything about who they are or what they are capable of. No man or grade boundary can do that because the soul is without limits and bounds- we do not even know what we are capbale of. That is the great mystery of our own lives, entwined inevitably and beautifully with the mystery of others. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.

A British paper published this article at the weekend, it is certainly not my favourite paper but this was something I appreciated reading:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1104467/Victoria-Lambert-I-aborted-baby-disabled-feels-like-murder-haunts-day.html

Friday, 2 January 2009

Beads of hope for 2009

I have never been one for elaborate or fancy Rosary beads rather, following in the tradition of little St. Bernadette, I have had a fairly cheap and cheerful wooden pair from one of billions of tourist shops in Lourdes where they sell hideous cards which sing Ave Maria at you in Italian. This Christmas, among other far less spiritual gifts, I was given a pair of truly beautiful Rosary beads and I have fallen utterly in love with them. The helpful little card which accompanied them tells me "This Rosary is a link of solidarity to the persecuted Chinese Church. Each intricately-detailed bead has been hand-enamelled and polished by Chinese monks." I can't believe that each bead, which is painted with a single rose on a rich blue background has been hand painted (the picture doesn't really do them justice).

They take my breath away, not simply because they are superficially beautiful, but because of what they represent. These beads are the light in the darkness; the proof that no matter how much you try to oppress with violence or cruelty hope springs up in the form of unvanquishable beauty. Each of these roses is a rose of hope, painted out of love for she whose 'immaculate heart will triumph'. China needs our prayers and the protection of Mary for the suffering is grave-that cannot be denied-but Christ is so alive there and the courage of the Christians I am praying for as I pass over each little bead enlightens and humbles me. This is the Church of great faith! May we stand with them in 2009 and not forget their many sacrifices and trials.

Below is a picture of Bishop John Han Dingxiang who was imprisoned for 35 years. This picture shows him holding up his crucifix through the bars which enclosed him. The text below was taken from Aid to the Church in Need where you can read his full story at: http://www.acn.org.uk/shop/content.asp?id=48

In September 2007, the authorities knew Bishop Han was dying but insisted that nobody from the Church would be present at his bedside.Operating in secret, the authorities had his body cremated within hours of his death and took his remains by night to a public cemetery.His headstone omitted the word ‘Bishop’ from his name.

What could the Beijing authorities possibly have to fear
from a man who preached peace, defended human
dignity, who was loyal to his faith – a man whose
one delight was to paint beautiful Chinese flowers?

But thanks to Bishop John Han Dingxiang remaining true to his beliefs through cruel persecution, the torch of faith is now being passed on to a new generation of Chinese Catholics who are turning to Christ as never before.

One of the faithful we spoke to said: “We are so tired of these difficulties.”

Then, with a smile, he quickly added: “But the sufferings of this time are as nothing compared to the glory of God.”

Bishop Han is just one of many such clergy and faithful incarcerated for their beliefs in a China that claims to uphold religious freedom as an essential principle of government.

As one priest said: “The best thing you can do is to pray.

“Please pray that we won’t lose faith,
that we won’t give up trusting in God.”




Thursday, 1 January 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND THANK YOU!

One of the things that has lifted my heart this Christmas and New Year has been joining the blogging world and discovering there are so many dedicated and sincere Catholics of all nationalities composing blogs with insight and love. I think it is a great thing that the Internet can be used to allow us to share faith and communicate. We are a world Church and this is just one way that we can celebrate our unity though we may be writing from hundreds of miles apart. Thank you to all of you and I hope that there are many blessings for you and your families in 2009!
John Paul II says The future starts today, not tomorrow.” Let us live with joy in our hearts for nothing is impossible for God.

Happy New Year!

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