ENFOLDED IN CHRIST: The Inner Life of a Priest

On May 31st Canterbury Press will be publishing the book* I’ve written concerning priestly spirituality.  From my background as a Franciscan friar for twenty-five years, an interest in Ignatian and Benedictine spirituality and ten years as Rector of an urban parish, this book seeks to explore the heart of priestly spirituality.  It is not about ministry, mission, preaching, evangelisation, pastoral care etc.  but how, through our ‘abiding in the heart of Jesus’, we realise our vocation.

I have also addressed concerns that have emerged in my ministry of spiritual direction and pastoral supervision over many years and drawn on my experience as Vocations Adviser and Novice Guardian for the Franciscans.

It is different from some other books on this subject in exploring matters such as:. the place of confession in the life and ministry of the priest; life as a deacon; praying the Daily Office; Eucharistic living; spiritual direction and supervision; sexuality; letting go of our roles, detachment etc…  It also makes wide use of the Principles of the Society of St. Francis and the dynamic of the Ignatian Exercises and keeps in mind that not all priests will exercise their ministry in a parish context.  However I hold that for all of us, as St. John Vianney said, “the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

It’s aimed at those considering and preparing for ordination as well as those who are ordained. It should also be of interest and help to spiritual directors, pastoral supervisors, clergy mentors, those concerned with the well-bring of the clergy – and any Christian interested in developing their spirituality.

Others have written about the ministry of the priest and some have sought to look at how ‘being’ can help ‘doing’ and I trust what I have written will complement some of these.  Apart from what one might expect in a book like this – chapters on Prayer, the Divine Office etc. it also includes material about:

⇒ Being rooted on God’s love for us;

⇒  Realising the need for constant ‘conversion of the heart’ and confession;

⇒  Issues concerning formation and formators;

⇒  Eucharistic living;

⇒  Looking at ‘being beneath the role’;

⇒  Issues of sexuality, celibacy and the single life;

⇒  Letting go.

For inspiration I take one of the motto’s of the Benedictines:

  Ut in Omnibus Glorificetur Deus:
That in all things God may be glorified

From the Foreword by Christopher, Bishop of Southwark: ‘The tradition he inherits, distils and passes on is a broadly based one, in which writers and thinkers as various as George Herbert, Maya Angelou and Paul Tillich all have a part to play. But at its heart is the deep hope of humanity this side of eternity, to take the shape which God purposes for each of us, to grow into our true selves, to become the people it is good for us to be.’ 

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*  ISBN-13: 9781786220462,  RRP £12.99 ($21)

 

ST JOHN OF GOD

Today, March 8th, is the Commemoration of St John of God (1495-1550).  He was a Portuguese-born soldier turned health-care worker in Spain whose followers later formed the Hospital Order of Saint John of God, a worldwide Catholic religious institute dedicated to the care of the poor, sick, and those suffering from mental disorders.  He is considered one of Spain’s leading religious figures.  Here is an extract from a letter he wrote that is read during the Office of Readings:

‘If we kept before us the mercy of God, we can never fail to do good so long as we have the strength.  For if we share with the poor, out of love for God, whatever he has given to us, we shall receive according to his promise a hundredfold in eternal happiness.  That indeed is a fortunate and happy way of gaining a profit!  Who would not entrust his possessions to this best of merchants, who handles our affairs so well?  With outstretched arms he begs us to turn toward him, to weep for our sins, and to become the servants of love, first for ourselves, then for our neighbours.  For just as water extinguishes a fire, so does love wipe away sins.’

COLLECT
O God, who filled Saint John of God
with a spirit of compassion,
grant, we pray,
that, giving ourselves to works of charity,
we may merit to be found among the elect in your Kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

DRAFT LETTER TO SUPERMARKETS CONCERNING PLASTIC PACKAGING

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you as a major producer of plastic waste to ask that your company take seriously your need to substantially reduce the amount of non-biodegradable packaging used in your stores.

Like thousands of others I share a deep concern at the growing amount of such goods damaging our environment and the long term effects for future generations. During this holy season of Lent many of us are trying to use less plastic but it is clear that supermarket chains are not helping in this effort. From products unnecessarily packed in plastic to packaging that is almost impossible to break into you must be aware that you, like other chains, are a major cause of such waste. Could you not do far more to reduce the use of this product? Take some simple examples: cucumbers don’t need to be wrapped in plastic. Why can’t cheese bought from the counter not be wrapped in grease-proof paper as it used to be? Why do many vegetables and fruit need to be wrapped in plastic? And if you really need to use plastic why is it not always recyclable?  Is there any ethical argument as to why, by now, you still use non-biodegradable plastics? And why not use cardboard or paper packaging which provides a traditional, degradable means of wrapping goods? For centuries we did not need over-wrapped products but everywhere I look in your stores and elsewhere plastic has a strangle-hold on the products sold.

So I am asking you to organise a survey of the non-degradable packaging you use; to ask your suppliers to do the same, and to think about and do your part to reduce this dangerous tsunami of plastic which is endangering our environment and, in places, killing it. Why not, for example, offer paper rather than polythene bags? It’s only recently that you’ve felt it necessary not offer such bags for people to place fruit and vegetables in.

I am sure you want to be known as an ethical retailer who takes your responsibility to the environment seriously but until you are clearly committed to stemming this awful tide that is flooding our world your commitment cannot be taken seriously. What steps will you take to protect our future?

Yours faithfully,

(A downloadable version available here)

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source site SOME SUPERMARKET CONTACT DETAILS:

John Allan (Chairman), Tesco PLC, Tesco House, Shire Park, Kestrel Way, Welwyn Garden City, AL7 1GA

David Potts (CEO – david.potts@wmmorrisons.co.uk), Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC, Hilmore House, Gain Lane, Bradford, BD3 7DL

Michael Coupe, (CEO), Sainsbury’s Store Support Centre, 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT

PLASTIC-LESS LENT 2018

Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation. It is a time when we reflect on God’s purpose for our life. This year we’re invited to join others who are promising to try and live a PLASTIC-LESS LENT – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation. Over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. That’s enough plastic to cover every inch of the UK ankle-deep more than ten times over. Just 9% was recycled.

To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’ The Anglican Communion’s Fifth Mark of Mission. Share your journey with others on the Plastic-Less Lent Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/148636355799566/

 

WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY 2018

go site 18TH – 25TH JANUARY 2018
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Pray for the unity of all the Christian Churches:

Thursday, Jan. 18th     Chair of St Peter                                 Orthodox

Friday, Jan. 19th          St Wulfstan, Bp                                   Roman

Saturday, Jan. 20th     Ss Fabian Pp & Sebastian, MM         Oriental

3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME                                          Anglican

Monday, Jan. 21st       St Vincent DcnM                                 Lutheran

Tuesday, Jan. 23rd      Feria                                                      Methodist

Wednesday, Jan. 24th St Francis de Sales BDr                     Reformed

Thursday, Jan. 25th     CONVERSION OF ST PAUL               Protestant

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Eternal Father,
we praise you for sending your Son
to be one of us and to save us.
Look upon your people with mercy,
for we are divided in so many ways,
and give us the Spirit of Jesus to make us one in love.

We ask this gift, loving Father,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

SOME PRINCIPLES FOR A COMPASSIONATE HEART

A set of daily Principles for Compassion have been published which are intended to offer a means of reflecting on some of the ways in which we might develop a compassionate heart.  They are available here.  For ease of use they are divided into daily portions but are also separated into sections which might be read together.  The idea for creating them owes much to those Principles which guide the lives of members of the Society of S. Francis.

Knowing that many will have other obligations and commitments, these reflections should not be regarded as a burdensome routine to be undertaken.  Rather it is hoped they might be of some interest and assistance in nurturing the great, universal virtue of compassion.

EASTER 2017

 

‘Though the dear humanity of Christ could only suffer once, his goodness would always make him do so – every day if need be.  If he were to say that for love of me he would make a new heaven and earth, this would be a comparatively simple matter; something he could do every day if he wanted, with no great effort.  But for love of me to be willing to die times without number – beyond human capacity to compute – is, to my mind, the greatest gesture our Lord God could make to the human soul.  This is his meaning: ‘How could I not, out of love for you, do all I can for you?’

(‘Revelations of Divine Love’ Ch. 22: Ninth Revelation)


 

Propers for a Mass of the Divine Compassion

THE OPENING RITES

Entry Antiphon
The counsel of the Lord shall endure for ever and the designs of his heart from generation to generation.  To deliver their soul from death and to feed them in time of famine.  (Psalm 32: 11, 19)

The Opening Prayer
Almighty God,
whose Son, Jesus Christ,
was moved with compassion for all
and with indignation for those who suffer wrong:
Inflame our hearts with the burning fire of your love,
that we may seek out the lost,
have mercy on the fallen
and stand fast for truth and righteousness.
We make this prayer through the same
Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord … Amen.

THE LITURGY OF THE WORD

Reading: Ephesians 3: 14b – 19

Responsorial Psalm:  102
R. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.  R.

Who forgives all your sins
and heals all your infirmities;
Who redeems your life from the Pit
and crowns you with faithful love and compassion.  R.

The Lord executes righteousness
and judgement for all who are oppressed.
He made his ways known to Moses
and his works to the children of Israel.  R.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
He will not always accuse us,
neither will he keep his anger for ever.  R.

Alleluia                Alleluia, alleluia!  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble of heart.  Alleluia.

Gospel Reading: John 15: 7-17

The Peace
The love of God in Jesus Christ brings peace to all who touch him.
May his peace be with you.

THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST

Prayer over the Gifts:
Lord, look on the heart of Christ your Son
which he offered for the life of the world.
Because of his compassion and love
accept this sacrifice and forgive our sins.  Amen.

Preface
It is indeed right, our duty and our joy,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
almighty God and eternal Father,
through Christ our Lord.
For raised up high on the Cross,
he gave himself up for us with profound compassion
and poured out blood and water from his pierced side,
the wellspring of the Church’s Sacraments,
so that, won over to the open heart of the Saviour,
all might draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
And so, with choirs of angels
and with all the heavenly host,
we proclaim your glory
and join their unending song of praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord …

Communion
The Lord says: ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’  John 7: 37-38

Prayer after Communion
God of life and love,
from the pierced heart of your Son
flowed the life of the world.
Renew within us
the love we have celebrated in this Eucharist
and keep us always faithful to your Word
the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Dreaming Compassion: James Finley

Imagine that you have a dream in which you are climbing a high mountain. The valley below is where you grew up, where you experienced pain and made many mistakes. You are trying to transcend and leave this place by reaching the summit, on which you will be sublimely holy and one with God.  As the summit comes into view, the wind rising from the valley brings with it the sound of a child crying out in distress. You realize that there is no real choice but to go down the mountain to find and help the hurting child. Turning back, you descend into the valley. Following the child’s cries, you arrive at the very home you tried to leave behind.

You gently open the door and look inside. Sitting in the corner on the floor is your own wounded child-self, that part of you that holds feelings of powerlessness and shame. You sit down next to the child on the floor. For a long time you say nothing. Then a most amazing thing happens. As you are putting your arms around this child, you suddenly realize you are on the lofty summit of union with God!

To be transformed in compassionate love does not mean that you do not have to continue struggling and working through your shortcomings and difficulties. It means learning to join God who loves you through and through in the midst of all your shortcomings. As you continue to be transformed in this way, you come to realize that right here, right now, just the way you are, you are one with love that loves you and takes you to itself just the way you are.

Immersed in love, you look out through compassionate eyes to see the world. Here the dream in which you return to your wounded child-self takes on new, social dimensions. In this expanded version of the dream, you follow the child’s cries to the home in which you grew up. You go inside to compassionately embrace the preciousness of the hurting child. As you are putting your arms around the child, it turns into your mother, your father, brother, sister. It is every nameless face you have passed in the street. It turns into the world that “God so loved . . . as to send God’s only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

God loves and is one with the communal preciousness of all that is lost and broken in everyone. So, too, you begin to realize that you are falling in love with each and every person in the world. As you go on in this love for others, you fail again and again. This is no obstacle so long as you see your failure to be compassionate as just another opportunity to renew your faith in God’s compassionate love for you and for all of us in the midst of our wayward ways.

As our fidelity to meditation continues to deepen, we experience within our-selves how God’s compassionate love uses us for its own purpose by inspiring, even impelling us to do what we can to ease the burden and calm the distress of those around us. Meditation embodies compassion that forms the essential bond between seeking God in meditation and all forms of social justice. The more we are transformed in compassion, the more we are impelled to act with compassion toward others.

Gateway to Silence: Rest in God resting in me (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation)

SACRED HEART OF JESUS, Source of Light and Life by St. Bonaventure

An excerpt from a work by St. Bonaventure which is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrated each year on the second Friday after the Feast of Pentecost.  Here Bonaventure reflects on the meaning of the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ crucified, the living water of sacramental grace coming from the loving heart of the Saviour.  His comments are in part a commentary on several lines of Psalm 36, which is used in the office of the feast: “Your love, Lord, reaches to heaven, your truth to the skies . . . In you is the source of life and in your light we see light.”

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‘Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.  It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.

Arise, then, beloved of Christ! Imitate the dove ‘that nests in a hole in the cliff’, keeping watch at the entrance ‘like the sparrow that finds a home’. There like the turtledove hide your little ones, the fruit of your chaste love. Press your lips to the fountain, ‘draw water from the wells of your Saviour; for this is the spring flowing out of the middle of paradise, dividing into four rivers’, inundating devout hearts, watering the whole earth and making it fertile.

Run with eager desire to this source of life and light, all you who are vowed to God’s service. Come, whoever you may be, and cry out to him with all the strength of your heart. “O indescribable beauty of the most high God and purest radiance of eternal light! Life that gives all life, light that is the source of every other light, preserving in everlasting splendour the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your divinity from the dawn of time! Eternal and inaccessible fountain, clear and sweet stream flowing from a hidden spring, unseen by mortal eye! None can fathom your depths nor survey your boundaries, none can measure your breadth, nothing can sully your purity. From you flows ‘the river which gladdens the city of God’ and makes us cry out with joy and thanksgiving in hymns of praise to you, for we know by our own experience that ‘with you is the source of life, and in your light we see light’.