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Showing posts from July, 2018

THE SOILED EARTH

Bury me not In the soiled earth Of Ireland Whose dust I have shaken From my feet Incinerate me there If you must But bring me back To the higher ground Of Fairlight and a sea Less cruel beneath Better an exile In a foreign land Than a stranger at home

PLOUGHED AND HARROWED: Fallow Land

All of a sudden my life collapsed in front of me. It seemed as if my soul spilled all over the table, briefly, very briefly. Did anyone notice? I don't know. Nobody said. Head bent, looking straight down at the crucifix in my hands, I pulled everything back up into myself. And carried on. The soil of my heart is ploughed and harrowed. The parable of the sower features at Mass these days. As a young man, whenever I heard that gospel, I used to worry about the state of my heart, that place within where God dwells. Is mine a shallow, unfaithful, hardened soil where only thorns and briars can grow? But the years testify to something more, something better and I must confess it as a blessing from God that the soil of my heart is rich and fertile, a place where the seed of God's Word has been able to grow. I don't know what the yield is. Hardly 100 fold but maybe 30. Soil becomes tired, depleted and needs to lie fallow for a while, left alone, unsown, unused, so that it c

INTOLERABLE LANGUAGE: Will you also go away?

Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John will be read at Mass over the next month or so. In it Jesus presents himself as bread for the hunger of humanity, the Bread of Life. The miracle of the loaves and fish, the rejection of earthly power, the escape to the solitude of the hills, the walking on water are all part of the mystery of Eucharist. The teaching that follows these events is provocative, demanding an unambiguous response, pushes us to a moment of decision. We cannot be indifferent. "The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world... I AM the bread of life..." The response of many was to say that this is intolerable language, who could ever accept it? And most of the disciples left him at that stage. "What about you" he asked the twelve "will you go away too?" Where do I stand, with whom do I stand? Jesus is immediately aware of the people’s hunger, ready to do something about it. He is alert, attentive, listening. He who dw

THE HILL OF MERCY: Camino Remembered

Angels of Mercy - Mark, Becky and Brend In the morning we had to be out of the hostel by 7am. Alfred moved on alone, hoping to walk tracks that were not part of the set route. We were already that close from one day together that I felt lonely parting and I expected that we would not meet again.  Not wanting to walk in the dark I stopped under a street light on the bridge to pray to the sound of cockcrow, the running waters of a river and the wind. Later in the morning I went into a field to say Mass under a tree because it seemed there was no guarantee of finding an open church. I walked alone the 18 miles from Larrasoana to Zariquiegui via Pamplona and ended up being the only pilgrim in a private hostel in the tiny village. While walking through the beautiful city of Pamplona I became aware of how at ease I am in an urban setting. I love the sea, the country and solitude but at the end of the day I am urban! During the Camino I came to a heightened awareness of the sacrednes

BEGINNINGS: Camino Remembered

November 1st & 2nd, 2011 Beginnings With Aelfred I woke at 6.00 a.m. on the Feast of All Saints to the sound of thunder. A look out the window revealed torrential rain. At 7.50 a.m. I walked out into the gloom of the morning, uncertain and with the intention of going to the church to pray for guidance but it was locked and soon I found myself walking the road to Valcarlos where I arrived two hours later soaked to the skin. From there the rain eased off and most of the day took me through miles of beautiful forest, mountains and rivers. And utter solitude! Innocence allows me to stand looking up at the mountains rising high above me, realizing that I am so small. And at the same time I am aware that I stand higher than the tops of the trees and torrents below me “From the dust He lifts up the lowly, from the dungheap he raises the poor” (Psalm 113) God is great! It took about eight hours and 15 miles to get to Roncesvalles, the monastery hostel where I first met Aelfred. We sh

Camino - St. Jean Pied de Port, point of departure

“...life must pass through difficulty in order to achieve any modicum of beauty” (Colum McCann - Let The Great World Spin) There were eight of us on the train up the mountains from Bayonne. One woman was obviously a pilgrim, being dressed much like me and carrying a backpack. The train stopped and after a delay the conductor came down to announce something that made the woman pilgrim puff and roll her eyes. Were we stuck? Everyone went up to the door of the driver’s cab and through his window we could see a flare burning bright at the entrance to a tunnel. There was the fear that rocks had fallen in the tunnel and the driver walked into the tunnel to check it out. While he was gone everyone talked - happily. The eyes of a woman met mine so I asked if she spoke English. She did. And very well. Marlies and her daughter Monik are from Belgium. Marlies lives in St. Jean. Monik is visiting. The driver returned, the journey resumed and when we got to St. Jean the two Belgians decided

THE PACE OF MY WEAKNESS

There is a prophet among them, a prophet unheard and despised. (Ezekiel 2:5 and Mark 6:1-6) If I remember rightly it was during the Synod on Religious Life in 1994 that Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) said that Religious Life is the prophetic arm of the Church and he described the prophet as one who sees the face of God. We usually think of prophecy in terms of the spoken Word but it is first of all spiritual vision, vision of God in the way that Moses beheld the Holy Face of God on Mount Sinai where God spoke to him as one does to a friend. When Moses came down from that encounter the people first noticed how he radiated the presence of God before ever he said a word to them. Prophecy is about recognizing the presence of God in the ordinary and extraordinary realities of life, in all its struggle, suffering, it's joys and hopes. It is about speaking Gods Word to those realities and being a prophetic presence. Paul received a prophetic word in his struggle with