Wednesday, 28 October 2009


Praying to Christ with Mary

Jesus invited us to turn to God with insistence and the confidence that we will be heard: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). The basis for this power of prayer is the goodness of the Father, but also the mediation of Christ himself (cf. 1Jn 2:1) and the working of the Holy Spirit who “intercedes for us” according to the will of God (cf. Rom 8:26-27). For “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26), and at times we are not heard “because we ask wrongly” (cf. Jas 4:2-3).

In support of the prayer which Christ and the Spirit cause to rise in our hearts, Mary intervenes with her maternal intercession. “The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary”. If Jesus, the one Mediator, is the Way of our prayer, then Mary, his purest and most transparent reflection, shows us the Way. “Beginning with Mary's unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the Holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries”. At the wedding of Cana the Gospel clearly shows the power of Mary's intercession as she makes known to Jesus the needs of others: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).

The Rosary is both meditation and supplication. Insistent prayer to the Mother of God is based on confidence that her maternal intercession can obtain all things from the heart of her Son. She is “all-powerful by grace”, to use the bold expression, which needs to be properly understood, of Blessed Bartolo Longo in his Supplication to Our Lady. This is a conviction which, beginning with the Gospel, has grown ever more firm in the experience of the Christian people. The supreme poet Dante expresses it marvellously in the lines sung by Saint Bernard: “Lady, thou art so great and so powerful, that whoever desires grace yet does not turn to thee, would have his desire fly without wings”. When in the Rosary we plead with Mary, the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35), she intercedes for us before the Father who filled her with grace and before the Son born of her womb, praying with us and for us.


Pictures taken on my visit to the convent of Nevers 2008

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The crime against Down Syndrome babies in England

Sitting here watching the news, in the most cold and calculated way, I have just been subjected to a report on how 93% of babies with down syndrome are aborted in this country (you can read the article here). Amazingly the BBC chose to interview a mother and some really positive things came out of that interview. Of course, this was not the subject of the report, this was just an "interesting" side issue. The topic was how women are waiting later to have children and the fact that this results in children with down syndrome was simply an interesting point for study. It made me feel ashamed of this society of ours which talks about the eradication of almost 100, 000 people as "a decision".

What arrogance exists in this society of ours? A society that preaches inclusion and equality. This is a genocide based on the fact that we consider the people who have this condition to be unworthy of life. UNWORTHY OF LIFE! What right do we have for such an awe inducing "decision"? Here are people killed before they are born because they do not meet our apparently high standards for existence.

It is a true tragedy that we lose people who have every bit as much to contribute to this society as you and me - PROBABLY MORE!

What disgraceful arrogance in human beings allows us to "decide" that somebody does not deserve to live?

For anybody who feels that the decision to give a child with down syndrome a death sentence is just and right - stand back and think of the implications- not just for the child but for all. To destroy someone with love to give, with words to say, who without intervention would have a place in this world. In my head and my heart I go back to my own experience of friends in my life with down syndrome. How much these people had to give -how much they have given me- SO MUCH!

I go back to Jean Vanier a man who has learned more from people with down syndrome, and various other conditions, than from any others he has come into contact with- which include famous politicians and academics. This was a man who taught philosophy at university and yet NO college student and NO volume of Aristotle ever taught him more than living in community with those with "disabilities". There are hundreds of L'Arche communities all over the world filled with assistants who make the same claims as Vanier himself.

When you don't give somebody a chance at life how can you make claims about their value?

I have lived with someone with a supposed "disability" in my own life and to be perfectly honest he was a lot less disabled than the rest of us and so utterly alive. These days doctors would encourage mothers to abort babies with the same condition Garvan had. What a terrible hole in the world; not to have lost him in our family but NEVER to have had him. Below you can see him dressed as a spaceman at a party and also, with me when I was born.

There can be no worse crime than for a society to deny other human beings their right to life simply because, deep down, the rest of us think we are worth more.

The fact it is done silently and legally does not make it better - if anything it makes it worse.

How can you have October without virtual Lourdes?

A little visit to virtual Lourdes in honour of the Rosary. What better place to celebrate than at the grotto where praying the Rosary was overseen by Our Lady herself? She joined in the Our Father and followed silently as Bernadette prayed the Hail Mary. This was the case from the earliest vision. How many rosaries have been said there since? It must run into trillions! Hooray!

From a personal point of view I think it is where I learnt to fully appreciate this most beautiful and powerful of prayers.

Remember that your prayers went there too and all those thousands of Rosaries surrounded them. I so hope that those prayers are being answered. I believe they are - perhaps already have been?

The Ave Maria being sung in the midst of the Rosary procession

Monday, 26 October 2009

To respond with love

Last Friday I spent the day packing boxes full of peoples' donations for parts of Eastern Europe where there is extreme poverty. I went to help because the woman who collects the donations in her house (who was working for this charity since before the fall of the Berlin wall) is now ninety and, as a severe asthmatic, has been told she should no longer lift anything, how ever small. This hasn't stopped her. The donations will be couriered through Poland until they reach a religious community there. When it gets to the Fathers it will be divided up in order to share it among communities in need and then it will be taken on to parts of the Ukraine, Belarus and among others, communities still affected by the Chernobyl disaster, where babies are still being born without eyes. It will be taken by the Fathers themselves who will go back and forth tirelessly with fairly limited transport until it is all delivered. It is only scratching the surface, yet because of the personal response of all these people children will have toys, elderly people will have soap, mothers and fathers, teenagers will have clothing. Without that van of aid they would not. It really is as simple as that.

It is difficult to describe how humbled I felt being around Vi, the woman in question. I packed for a few hours and was tired; she has people in and out of her house at all different hours of the day all the time. Each day friends from church come in and do some packing. Yet all of us are purely bathing in the light of her true goodness- since this is one of her many projects. She never loses patience with her packers and insists on making us tea and cakes, she answers thousands of questions from those of us who have no idea of the severe customs laws, she painstakingly copies out labels for every bag and box in Polish - she has looked up and checked all the words and has to copy them from her hand written list. This is a woman whose favourite Birthday present was 900 tea bags for her parcels. In parts of the Ukraine people can't afford tea, all they can drink is hot water. Vi has responded to them, but more than this, she has responded to them with love.

There are so many forms of poverty in the world, in our own lives. One of the great examples of love in our world today is Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche community. It is his belief that each of us is poor and handicapped in our own way so we shouldn't get any ideas about our own greatness, nor others lowliness. Each of us can give and each of us can learn from one another but no human being is less valuable than another in the sight of God. I understand all of this as best I can - with all my own flaws.

Nevertheless, I feel an increasing concern in my own life about how I am responding, personally, to the cries of the poor. I feel a stronger pull towards walking with them in my own life in some way. In Western terms I don't come from a particularly wealthy family but I have been given so much in my life in terms of love and the education I received- I believe that this privilege is a responsibility- the tools I need to respond. My university chaplain constantly warned us of this- if you are given opportunity then it is your responsibility to turn this into a chance to love. I know that I have written in the past about when I was in Tanzania two and a half years ago, about how the children I met there have burrowed into a place in my heart. I think about their lives often and I think about their pain. It is easy for me to see snippets of lives of those who suffer, to be briefly united to them and to feel compassion for them. It is much harder to know what to do about these feelings. How can we help those who most need it? How can we turn these feelings into a loving response in whatever way that might be possible?

I don't have any answers to that one (obviously) except the one that we all have, the one that Christ ultimately gives us - respond with love. How we do this is deeply individual and personal (again, sorry I am stating the obvious). As long as we respond. Action through prayer is certainly a highly powerful response and you can see it working in our own missionaries.

I just feel that I need to be working on improving my personal response. I am grateful as always to be part of a Church that does so much for the poor, no matter the criticisms levelled, I have seen it in action. Where there are no others, the Church is there at the heart of poverty. Thus we are all there.

Below is a video I filmed of the kids singing in the Fransalian school in Tanzania. It was the happiest school I have EVER visited and it is one of the many projects the MSFS are responsible for in just this one area. You get to hear me laughing away at the end as I was treated to another rendition of my 'favourite' song. It makes me smile whenever I watch it. Projects like this are hope personified in a world where there is no infrastructure whatsoever to support the average person. Education is a light of strength. Christ lives in the hope of each one of these children.

I ask for your prayers as I am deciding a few important things in the coming months. I believe I have been offered an opportunity to respond more fully on a personal level - I ask for your help that I will do His will. That I will respond with love in the particular way he wishes me to.

I promise to keep you informed as things develop.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Back to Bernadette

It has been a little while since I have had a chance to talk about St Bernadette and you all know that I love talking about St. Bernadette - a book I have just been given allows the perfect opportunity. Hooray!
It is called "We Saw Her" and its comprised of witness accounts from those who were there in 1858 and saw the events. Before I go to bed I can't help but share this with you:

"It was no longer the same Bernadette - the angels in heaven must be like that. At times she listened with a sad and dejected air; then her lips moved again. Once more I heard that long sigh which made me so happy. Ever since, when I wake at night I try to reawaken the picture of her face and above all that smile and those lovely bows" LOUIS BAUP *

Me too and I wasn't even there! :-)

*We Saw Her, B.G. Sandhurst, Longmans, Green & Co, London, 2003 (first published 1953)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Relics of St. Therese

On Tuesday I arrived at the Cathedral piazza, which I know so well, to see a screen with Mass being streamed and the whole place lit up and filled with those waiting to get close to the relics. Those lights which shone out into the Autumn twilight were indeed very literal. However, there was a greater light behind them, a light of united hope. To me the greatest gift of seeing the casket containing the relics, and running my hand over the glass casing that surrounds them, was not so much about personal desires and intentions but the hopes of all those who have come close to it since it begun its travels. Of course I believe that St Therese is ready and willing to intercede for us, listening for our individual, hopeful and heartfelt petitions, yet the symbolism of this event was certainly about something greater than this.

I felt that the most valuable thing created was a connection between the faithful of the world, in all their trials, around somebody who lived with the simplicity of love. It was about being aware of the power of that simplicity, of what a desire to love can do, how it is still bringing people together in a community of sorts. A community of hope and I am so grateful to Therese for that. Beyond the value of any ornate casket is the value of the prayer uttered by each of those who have looked upon it, prayer that will never lose its value, nor the ear of she whose relics are within.

Whoever wished to make others believe that there is little faith on this island of ours has been aptly corrected and we are left with that sense of hope, that faith, which comes with a shower of graces. Need I say more? I think not - the answer to prayer is already so clear and so present. We are already thankful, yet I am sure this will not be the end of the thanks - I am sure there are many still to come. All we need do is wait and pray...

Pictures of the relics tour of England on the bbc here.

I pray that the next journey will be as successful but doubtless it will. St Therese pray for us!

Prayer to St Therese of the Child Jesus

Teach us how to open our hearts without reserve to the Holy Spirit as you did, to seek and find God's will in all the crises and choices, in the joys and disappointments of our lives. Gain for us too the grace to do his will with courage and untroubled hearts, so that we may radiate a joy and gladness like yours in service of Our Lord.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


My Year 9 (aged13-14) were looking at Darcy's letter to Elizabeth the other day. We came across the word humility and I asked them what they thought it meant

The girls said admitting you're not good at something

The boys said not letting on that you are good at something.

Interesting difference in gender perspective. I found it amusing.

I did my best to correct BOTH about the ACTUAL meaning of humility.

I am off to see the relics tonight and I am so looking forward to it - I hope to be able to post on it sometime soon and will remember you all when I get to the casket.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Trials and hopes

My lack of posting recently has probably been an implication to visitors and friends that all in my camp is not running quite as smoothly as it usually does. I have to say I have never experienced a start back to school quite like this one and myself and the kids have been struggling not to buckle under the new pressures placed on both of us by the institution we share and the systems that govern that institution. I am not afraid of a bit of hard work, but lets just say this has taken things to new lengths. As a result I have not been too well with a bug I just can't shift in the last couple of weeks (it is not of the swine variety) and I am now on antibiotics which I hope will help. I know I sound like I am moaning but I promise you I am not, on the contrary I am really just explaining myself. I miss posting but probably more than that I miss visiting the blogs of others and sharing thoughts, prayers and ideas with inspirational Catholics from all over the world. I remain blessed in so many ways and I cannot even attempt to complain in any way about the life I lead when I have so much (just thinking of the Gospel today). So on to a few cheery things I have been party to of late, of a more uplifting nature.

I am sure that no one here in England can fail to have missed the wonderful shower of hope being poured out upon us by the relics of St. Therese which I look forward to visiting in Westminster this Tuesday. So in preparation for their arrival lots has been going on this weekend. Yesterday at the Cathedral there was a day for Mary which I attended and found filled 1) With people 2) With hope. Who can be downcast when we have a mother who offers such love and leads us to her son and the hope of serving Him with real strength and honesty? Young Catholics here are responding and you can see it in their attendance at events such as these. There was further evidence of the on the afternoon procession.

In the afternoon we went to the 'Rosary Crusade' which has now been running for 25 years and led by the statue of our Lady of Fatima we walked through the streets of central London with the traffic stopped for us while we prayed the Rosary. We were permitted to walk on the roads, because of our large numbers. It was awesome! In the true sense of the word as Catholics of all ages joined together to pray in the heart of our city. We started in Victoria and walked through Chelsea and Knightsbridge to Brompton Oratory praying the Rosary with a special intention for our priests and the affect of St Therese's relics here. These busy consumer areas were brought to total standstill on a Saturday afternoon, just for a few moments by Our Lady and her powerful prayer. It was a great witness and I have to say I had a lot of fun walking down Sloane Street, Kings Road Chelsea and bypassing Harrods with the likes of Prada and Louis Vitton dominating, and watching people's bemused but interested faces. Of course I am under no illusion that many of them probably thought we were nuts but who cares? Our Lady is a powerful advocate and the act itself was just a tool - who knows what a witness like this might do? Only Christ knows. I know being part of it was wonderful and I am so grateful for this privlidge.

So there is hope, our country has many flaws indeed but one side of its desire for total freedom is that we are free to witness to Truth. We didn't try to intrude upon any body in a combative way we simply brought our prayer to the street, and to be totally honest, I found people ultimately respectful of that. Our Church is alive! For all that our media tries to insist it is not, for all our struggles against the terrible, crushing wrongs which our law supports and promotes we are here and we have something that can never be broken: we have FAITH and through faith we have an endless sense of hope and possibility. We cannot deny or put away our struggles but we can say that we will face them in a united way with an unbreakable sense of what Truth is.

For anybody else who is having a tough start to Autumn lets not forget that light in our lives and remember all those who can't quite find that light. My life would be so dark without it.

Dear friends you are always in my prayers.


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