COME BACK TO ME

STAY WITH PETER



Stay with Peter, you said
Peter in chains
Peter imprisoned
Between two soldiers

Peter sleeping
Like Jesus in the boat
Jesus in the tempest
Quiet, calm, trustful

Peter, rock solid
Eyes fixed on the Lord
Looking toward Him
Radiant in the seeing

Stay with Peter, you said
Peter in his deliverance
Gospel unchained
The full length of the street

Stay with Peter
, you say
Peter in our time

Imprisoned
Trustful
Delivered
Radiant

I HEAR VOICES, I SEE FACES



I no longer hear accents. Only voices. I do not see colour. Only faces. The latter happened to me in Tanzania where I was initially very conscious of my own whiteness. There were so few of us in a black country. Tiny toddlers ran screaming at the sight of me, a little older they sought to insult me by calling out “Mzungu” and when they got used to me, they would take hold of my arm, rubbing it to see if the colour came off. Then when I eased down into the pool of our common life and blended, we were simply people making good with what life presented to us. 

One of my favourite singers of the early 1970’s was Madeleine Bell of ‘Blue Mink’ who had a hit called “Melting Pot”, a possibly naïve thought and hope but one that resonated with fifteen-year-old me and still sings itself in me from time to time. What we need is a great big melting pot, big enough to take the world and all it’s got! The blending of every colour.

Not hearing accents has happened here in England. So much does God love me that He put me in a place that would make me fall in love with England. In the beginning I was naturally very aware of the English accent in the way that one is aware of the sound of seagulls. But then, as in Tanzania, I have eased down into the pool of our common life so that I only hear voices now and not accents. Most of the time anyway. Of course, I hear and see who people are but accent and colour are not what occupy my ears and eyes. 

LIFE MATTERS: Thoughts on Fathers Day





The day plays with me. Teasing, messing with me! As soon as I sit down to eat my dinner the doorbell rings. When I make a mug of tea the phone rings. Toast goes cold and ice-cream melts in the tub. I go out the back to sit in the warmth of the sun that has been shining all morning and immediately it ducks in behind the clouds! 

I remain in the sacrament of the present moment. God and all of life in the moment, the present reality. When you stop to take notice, the noise is astonishing - the amount of noise going on every single minute, noise that we usually move in, that we are part of – until we step back from it.

All the cars driving up and down, an unbelievable number of motorbikes that render all other sounds mute. In the briefest gap in the traffic someone’s hammer echoes, a rasping drill, the cry of a single seagull on the church roof, the chorus of a hundred more bouncing off the houses, the flapping of pigeon wings. Hidden beneath and emerging now and then the sweet and delicate sound of birdsong.

Surrounded by all of these sounds there is silence within and peace. And even the sun emerges again hot on my skin, a therapeutic treatment. I put my head back and close my eyes. Let my thoughts surface and float.

Life is on my mind. Human life. The beauty of it and the trauma of it. The trauma sweeping the world recently, a violent reminder that Black Lives Matter. It shouldn’t have to be said, we shouldn’t need to be reminded but we become indifferent to the violence visited on lives that we do not see. Black Lives are created in the image and likeness of God. I say this too that Every Life Matters because, Every Human Life is created in the image and likeness of God. This is a forgotten truth in our time. Every vulnerable life matters and is worthy to have us kneel in its presence at all times. 

INTOXICATING ORDINATION: Pondering Priesthood 40 Years On - Eamonn Monson SAC




“Each morning we must hold out the chalice of our being to receive, to carry, and give back. It must be held out empty – for the past must only be reflected in its polish, its shape, its capacity.” (Dag Hammarskjöld)
Ordination was intoxicating. It put a pep in my step, a smile on my face, tears in my eyes. All my life I was getting ready for it, having wanted to be a priest from my earliest memory, but when it came how ill prepared I was, how distracted. It’s a bit like accompanying the dying – you think you’re ready for death when it comes but it always manages to catch us off guard. Ordination caught me off guard, overwhelmed me, knocked me off my feet. And why wouldn’t it because it’s not just a major event, it is as close an encounter with God as you can get. Close encounters with God are overwhelming, sometimes devastating. It takes time to regain your balance.

Elizabeth and Hyacinth come to mind from the comedy series 'Keeping Up Appearances' - Elizabeth nervously holding the precious china cup and saucer, trembling in her hands and sometimes I think even falling to the floor. It seemed that priesthood was like the cup, the chalice in my hands, trembling, falling, breaking until I learned late in life that it is not me who holds the cup. It is God who holds me. 

THE PACT (Job in Isolation)



I make a pact
With my eyes, a pact
With my mind

Not to lead my heart astray
Lingering where the soul
Does not belong

I make a pact
With my senses
And break it

My body ravenous
For companionship
The touch of another

These isolation days
And weeks now turned
To months

I am at peace
I am at war
With myself




WHITE DOVE RISES: A new Intensity and Intimacy




A white dove rises, fluttering in the air as I emerge from the Crematorium. Brilliant white, radiant against the blue of sky. Sign of peace, symbol of the Holy Spirit which is appropriate in the days leading up to Pentecost.

I’ve slowed down to an extraordinary degree, like my brain is in slow motion, taking longer to complete what needs to be done in the time allotted. We’re given exactly half an hour for each funeral service and on Tuesday when I floated on for 50 minutes, the supervisor was understandably frustrated and sharp with me. In my defence, Tuesday was intense – I had three funerals in the space of two and a half hours and it’s quite difficult to switch from one group to another, to give them the attention they deserve, to leave one grief behind and enter into another in such a short space of time. Five funerals in a week feels like a lot, three in one day is something else. But it has to be done. Done with grace and honour for the deceased and the family.

The slow motion of my brain reminds me of the monks of Parkminster who are not allowed to drive because their reflexes are too slow, due to the pace of the life they live. There’s a bit of that too in me when driving following nine weeks of lockdown and isolation!

Monday was manic. Bank holiday fever filled the entire town and flowed happily onto the beaches of Hastings. The place was still buzzing in the late evening as people started moving lazily towards home, every bin in sight stuffed beyond capacity, overflowing on to the ground. Seagull’s paradise. They will wreak havoc and creation will groan.

Seagulls do what seagulls do and all the while the Spirit does what the Spirit does; the Holy Spirit working transformation in the hidden, locked down, isolated lives of our community. For some the transformation has carried them into eternity, carried being an important reality in our spiritual lives. We are carried when we allow ourselves to be carried, a call as old as Moses (Deuteronomy 1:31). We are like the wind; the Holy Spirit is the wind that blows where it will, a sound that is heard but it cannot be said from which direction the Spirit comes, in what direction the Spirit is going (John 3:8). So, it is with us, so it must be for we are born of the Spirit. We are available to be carried.

Maggi, a wise elder of our community, wrote the other day, a new intensity and intimacy has dawned - that’s my experience - I have been 100% isolated for nine weeks - no walks - and yet, I don’t feel alone - there is a great richness within us, unmined in normal life…”

A new intensity, a new intimacy is taking place in my own life. An immense love for Jesus rises, wells up within me. It is the action of the Holy Spirit, this love that is most intense in its wordless silence, most alive when I pray in the sanctuary before the Tabernacle. Wordless silence and hidden!

I have for many years thought how important it is to say “I love you” to Jesus and to those I love and have found myself saying it particularly to those who are about to die. Like I don’t want them to leave this world without knowing they are loved, knowing that they are loved by me. But saying “I love you” does not come easily to men in particular, that’s what the experts say. One night at home in Mervue as we were about to go to bed my Mother said to me, “I love you” and I replied “likewise” and she laughed, telling me she had recently read in the  paper that a woman will say “I love you” to a man and he is most likely to reply “ditto” or “likewise!” I was living out the theory.

I didn’t really know that my Mother loved me until the night before she died and now, I know. Life had taught me to mistrust words, to mistrust the word “love” because too often it has been a trap, a deception. Maura used to say, “don’t mind the words, just give me a hug!” So, when I say to Jesus, “I love you” I don’t trust my own words either because they feel false, hypocritical.

And now in this time of intensity and intimacy it seems that my love for Jesus is lessened in the saying, that it must be like the prophetic fire of Jeremiah, a fire imprisoned in my bones, a fire that needs to be held within until the restraining of it becomes a heat too much to bear. Then it will burst forth in the Holy Spirit, a perfect consummation, in groans and sighs beyond utterance (Romans 8). It will be a perfect prayer not of my own making and a fire that will purify all that is not good in me, a process that will go on to my end of days because there is more that is not good in me, more than anyone realizes.

So, this love that stirs in the sanctuary is not something I do or create. It is the working of the Holy Spirit. I am simply the vessel, the container, the thurible of red-hot charcoal that receives the incense, the sweet divine fragrance rising, ascending to mingle with light, the glory that streams through the window of the soul.

This may sound like I’m spending a lot of time in prayer. I’m not! Believe me when I say I’m not spending enough time praying but it’s not about time. It’s about presence,  intensity, an intimacy that happens in the briefest moment when I am taken up. And all who have asked me to pray for them are taken up too, taken out of my hands, out of my heart and mind into the Divine Presence, the hidden Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle, the doorway to heaven.