Saturday 15 December 2007

VII. Jesus falls for the second time

'Which of you walks in darkness and sees no light?'

On that note I am taking a sabbatical for Christmas - 'The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.'

See you in January.

Sunday 9 December 2007

VII. Jesus falls for the second time

The Seventh Station

VII. Jesus falls for the second time
Illustration: ewtn

V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Lord Yahweh has gven me a disciples tongue,
for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary.
Morning by morning he makes my ear alert
to listen like a disciple.
Lord Yahweh has opened my ear
and I have not resisted
I have not turned away.
I have offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
I have not turned my face away
from insult and spitting........
Which of you walks in darkness
and sees no light?
Let him trust in the name of Yahweh
and lean on his God.

Isaiah 50: 4 - 6, 10

Tuesday 4 December 2007

VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

My most beloved Jesus, your face was beautiful before, but in this journey it has lost all its beauty, and wounds and blood have disfigured it. Alas, my soul also was once beautiful, when it received your grace in Baptism; but I have disfigured it since by my sins; you alone, my Redeemer, can restore it to its former beauty. Do this by your Passion, O Jesus. I repent of having offended you. Never permit me to offend you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you wilt.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.

VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

The face: it is the most public, and most intimate part of our being. We only touch the faces of the the people we love. We touch them to express our most private emotions, love, grief, sorrow, celebration. If you ask people to recall a moment poignant in time for them, happy or sad, they remember peoples faces. Our most treasured memories are those when we witnessed people show their emotion in their faces: 'I remember you laughing'; 'you cried on that day'; 'the look on your face'; that is what we recall and share.

Faces make their home in our subconscious. They come back to us when we least expect it: the face of your mother when you notice something she would have disapproved of (a dusty shelf, perhaps), a friend when you hear someone else utter the words of a once shared joke, your father when someone new tells a story he always narrated. When we are apart from those we love most, it is their faces which we miss, and which we want to see again. In the faces of people we read thoughts, emotions and reactions, but we also recognise the wealth of emotions that remain hidden from us in the guarded smile, laugh or grin. Perhaps this recognition is why, in so many cultures, their is a desire to see the face of their dead - to say goodbye, to recognise a 'passing' of those features which made someone precious. We cover the faces of the dead, close their eyes, when we recoginse that they have 'gone.'

Veronica, so we have heard in tradition, went and wiped the face of Jesus while he was in his weakest moment. Many people believe that the image of his face, full of the emotion of that moment in history, scarred the cloth which she used. To run to someone and wipe their face in a moment of need is a remarkable act. Even recalling those whom we might tenderly wipe the face of, we can see this is a act which simultaneously reveals love and vulnerability. Children, the very sick, the old and the vulnerable trust others to wash their face. The healthy and the strong would not allow themselves to be so personally touched by someone they barely knew. Veronica acts with compassion and is received with compassion. In her act of love a gift is bequeathed - she would remember, have imprinted upon her mind, the face of Christ. This gift she would no doubt treasure, but it would also bring with it the inevitable pain of longing to see again the face of someone you have loved. The desire to see and speak with someone 'face to face'.

The gift of Veronica on the way of the cross is an intimate gift of loving compassion and a gift of longing. Jesus came to show all people the face of God, and in the revelation he rekindled in all people the desire to speak once again with the divine honestly, face to face. This desiring is echoed in our human longing to see those we love 'face to face', when they are travelling far away, or when they have died and passed on to their final resting place. Travelling the way of the cross it is possible to recall our own desires to see God's face and begin to understand fully what it is we have been called to become.

Love never comes to an end....When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways. Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I myself am known

1Corinthians 13: 11 - 12

Sunday 18 November 2007

VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

The Sixth Station

VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Illustration: Edow

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah. 53:2-3

You have said, “Seek my face”. My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek”. Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation.
Psalms. 27:8-9

V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross

My most sweet Jesus, I will not refuse the Cross, as the Cyrenian did; I accept it; I embrace it. I accept in particular the death you have destined for me; with all the pains that may accompany it; I unite it to your death, I offer it to you. You have died for love of me; I will die for love of you, and to please you. Help me by your grace. I love you, Jesus my love; I repent of having offended you. Never permit me to offend you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you will.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.

V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross

St. Alphonsus Ligouri reflects that Simon of Cyrene did not want to carry the cross, he could not accept it. This is a view point with which I have much sympathy. Who would want to go to Golgotha? Who would want Jesus to do that on their behalf? For many, such a sacrifice is unimaginable.

Crucifixion reveals every bad side of human nature, useless abuse, power games, torture, politics designed to damage, self interest, naivety, pride, betrayal, cowardice and rejection. If all this was for the sake of Good Friday only, then it is truly a depressing sight. To join in could only be masochistically pleasurable in a passion of self loathing. It makes no sense.

Mel Gibson in The Passion of the Christ portrays one of the most challenging and disturbing accounts of the crucifixion in modern times, one which re evaluates the sheer brutality of an event which the first Christians would have recognized instantly. In his account he chooses not to show any great detail about the Resurrection, leaving the viewer with a sense of wonder about the point of all the violence they have just seen. In the context of modern living this seems to make some kind of sense. We are constantly hearing the media bewail the rise of senseless violence in film, video games and entertainment. This is a film which leaves senseless violence to be wondered about; and it only hints at the Resurrection which gives the Crucifixion a sense and purpose.

For me, part of the journey of conversion has been accepting the cross. I could recognise that Jesus had lived, taught excellent things and eventually been killed on the cross. Learning from his teaching in the Gospels occupied my time during my first degree. What was very puzzling though was what people expected me to make of Jesus' death. Why on earth would I want, even if it were possible, to transfer my guilt - my problem, if you like - to someone else.

The most tempting rejection of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, for a modern Christian, is to reject his punishment for my sin. We do not want to accept that the crucifixion is personal. In a society that is forever reflecting on culpability (the buck stops here), people are beginning to accept responsibility for their actions all the time. Up to and including their sinful actions before God. If I am to be responsible for all my moral actions and decisions, then I will take the reward when I am right, and the punishment when I am wrong. Why would I let Jesus take the rap? This pervasive sense of individualism takes personal possession to destructive level. It traps people into self condemnation, and does not allow them to find forgiveness.

Peter, of course, had the same problem. He couldn't accept Jesus' idea of Messiahship either. At Ceasarea Phillipi he wanted to stop Christ, to explain to him that he wouldn't have to die. Jesus' response contains the harshest words he ever expresses to one of his disciples: 'Get behind me, Satan. Your thoughts do not come from God, but from human nature' (Mark 8:33). It is only through the resurrection and we are able to face the horrors of Good Friday. In the same way, it is only through our faith in forgiveness given by the Crucified and Risen Christ that we are able to face and overcome sin, in our own lives and in the world. No wonder Simon was so perplexed and reluctant, for him the resurrection was not yet apparent.

Wednesday 7 November 2007

V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross

Simon is enlisted to help Jesus carry his cross - he was just a passer by, minding his own business and yet he was to meet, quite suddenly, with Christ.

I am quite sure that there are a thousand reflections written about Simon stopping on the road that day, but what strikes me most about this story is how we meet the sacred through our human necessity.

On pilgrimage there is often an element of hardship through which people have to travel. On the road to Santiago de Compostela many pilgrims come face to face with their ordinary human needs:

Clare described the austerity of the lodging houses along the way: a room with twenty bunk beds, one toilet and only cold water to wash in. Local volunteers would come and provide hot food from one big pot for the weary travellers. But the exhuasted pilgrims, the delight of finding a bed to lie in, water in which to wash and a meal to eat made this basic accommodation a joy to arrive at. Clare described how a sense of the holiness of things was greatly intensified by the state of necessity - by the awareness of one's need for food, water, sleep and the companionship of one's fellow pilgrims.

But, what can this say to us about Simon. A man who's physical needs and sufferings pale in comparison to the journey Jesus is taking on his way to Gologtha?

The modern journey to Lourdes could not be more different from that to Santiago. Trains, coaches and planes transport people rapidly to hotels of every standard, according to the pilgrims ability and willingness to pay. Yet if we ask who are the people who travel to Lourdes, the question of speed and comfort takes on a somewhat different aspect. For many of the pilgrims are very ill or handicapped and may have been advised by doctors not to travel at all. For them the journey to Lourdes is every bit as physically tough as that of the health pilgrim on the road to Santiago de Compostela. Moreover, many of the pilgrims are people whose lives are already dominated by physical necessity: they need help with the most basic tasks, such as getting dressed or going to the toilet, whilst other have life threatening illnesses. The able bodied people who go to Lourdes to help those who are sick and handicapped often describe their own experience of the pilgrimage as one of totally exhausting hard work but, at the same time, as an occasion of enormous grace and joy. Pilgrims of all kinds typically say that Lourdes is an exceptionally holy place where they find peace and know the presence of God.

Sacred Space - House of God, Gate of Heaven
Marian Pilgrimage and its Destination - Sarah Jane Boss

Simon was dragged off the street to help someone he had never met with their heavy burden. It was an uncomfortable and even painful job, he may even have been threatened while he was doing it, but while he was walking he met with God. In one sense Jesus needed Simon to help him, in another it was Simon who needed Christ. Sometimes people are tempted to hide their needs, but in the story of pilgrimage, and in reflecting on the Way of the Cross, it becomes clear that it is through admitting our basic necessities, in asking for help when we need it, we not only recieve, but are enabled to help others. This is part of our humanity, but it is also part of our sacredness as persons

Tuesday 6 November 2007

V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross

The Fifth Station

V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross.
Mark 15:21

iv. Jesus meets his mother

My most loving Jesus, by the pain You suffered in this meeting grant me the grace of being truly devoted to Your most holy Mother. And You, my Queen, who was overwhelmed with sorrow, obtain for me by Your prayers a tender and a lasting remembrance of the passion of Your divine Son. I love You, Jesus, my Love, above all things. I repent of ever having offended You. Never allow me to offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

Is there one who would not weep,
'whelmed in miseries so deep
Christ's dear Mother to behold.

Thursday 25 October 2007

IV. Jesus meets his mother

Is there anything more bitter sweet than meeting your mother when you are beaten up and in deep trouble? Who comforts who in this picture? I had a big black eye once, a result of a quite outrageous evening in Birmingham and quite completely self inflicted. The worst thing about the entire event was the thought of what my mother would say, I had arranged to meet her and it was unavoidable. What she did say was this: 'You bring someone you love into the world, love them and care for them, give them everything they need...and then they go and do that to themselves. It's heartbreaking.' The need to reassure those you love that you are alright is a natural instinct, and the hardest task of a parent is to let you go your own way.

Is this picture very different? Who lets go of who? Jesus and Mary probably had many prayers in common, but one in particular comes to my mind. On hearing that she was to bear the child Jesus, God - Incarnate, young, unmarried and vulnerable Mary replied: 'Be it done unto me according to your word' (Luke 1: 38). In his vulnerability in the garden of Gethsemane, when the reality of his future suffering had become very plain, Jesus prayed: 'Let not my will, but yours be done' (Luke 22: 43). Mary and her son both let go of themselves, and placed themselves confidently into the hands of God. There they remained even when the going got tough, and it is there that salvation is found.

Monday 22 October 2007

IV. Jesus meets his mother

IV. Jesus meets his mother
Illustration: Juanita Yoder

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Look, he is destined for the fall and rise of many in Isreal, destined to be a sign that is opposed - and a sword will pierce your soul too - so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.

Luke 2: 34 - 35

III. Jesus falls for the first time

My beloved Jesus, it is not the weight of the Cross, but my sins, which have made you suffer so much pain. Ah, by the merits of this first fall, deliver me from the misfortune of falling into mortal sin. I love you, O my Jesus, with my whole heart; I repent of having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you will.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.

Sunday 14 October 2007

III. Jesus falls for the first time

Those who study pain are struck by its inexpressibility and its incommunicaility. Those in great pain are reduced to inarticulate screams and moans, or words which convey little of the actual experience of pain ('throbbing, stabbing, burning'). Pain does not merely resist language, but actively destroys it, in extreme cases reducing the sufferer to the sounds he used before he could speak. ... From the time a person begins to make sounds and words, language is a means of self expansion, the way in which a person moves beyond the confines of her body. In language a person learns to name the world, to become a larger part of the world, to gain a larger self. For a person in pain, the process is reversed. The immediacy of pain, its monopoly of attention and its incommunicability, reduces the world of the sufferer down again to the limits of the body itself. In older people, bodily fragility often brings the world down to within a few feet of their physical bodies. Their world becomes a ceaseless preoccupation with sitting comfortably, the room temperature, their aches and pains...Pain is often called 'blinding' because it eliminates all but itself from the field of vision.

Torture and the Eucharist - William T Cavanaugh

When Jesus falls he succumbs to human pain. The temptation would be to retreat inside himself and find no language with which to start again, no reason to look beyond the boundaries of his physical self. In order to begin again Jesus raises his head to speak the Word to his mother.

I think that we want to look good all the time, even when things are tough and we are in pain. People are ashamed to admit it when things become too much, they want to be brave, be strong and cope. Invariably I tend to look away from weakness, people crying makes me squirm. But often it is through our own experiences of weakness we are enabled to recognise the pain of others and begin to speak words of compassion. And it is through realising that everyone travels together that people get the courage to keep going. Jesus looked out from himself when most people would look in, and it was from this that he gained his strength to move forward in compassion and in love, bringing with him the hearts of those who loved and cared for him.

III. Jesus falls for the first time

It is one thing to rise quickly from a fall, another not to fall at all
St. Augustine

Vladimir: (sententious.) To every man his little cross. (He sighs.) Till he dies. (Afterthought.) And is forgotten.

Vladimir: Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! (Pause. Vehemently.) Let us do something while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us!

Estragon: (aphoristic for once). We are all born mad. Some remain so.

Pozzo: I woke up one fine day as blind as Fortune. (Pause.) Sometimes I wonder if I'm not still asleep.

Pozzo: The blind have no notion of time. The things of time are hidden from them too.

Pozzo: (suddenly furious). Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It's abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we'll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? (Calmer.) They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.

Vladimir: Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be? (Estragon, having struggled with his boots in vain, is dozing off again. Vladimir looks at him.) He'll know nothing. He'll tell me about the blows he received and I'll give him a carrot. (Pause.) Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens.) But habit is a great deadener. (He looks again at Estragon.) At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. (Pause.) I can't go on! (Pause.) What have I said?

Estragon: I can't go on like this.
Vladimir: That's what you think.

Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot

Augustine tells us that it would be vainglorious to think that we would never fall. Beckett warns us of the dangers of not being able to get up. Christ demonstrates that getting up when you have fallen is the work of love and hope.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Samuel Becket
Westward Ho (1983)

Sunday 7 October 2007

III. Jesus falls for the first time

The Third Station

III. Jesus falls for the first time
Illustration: Shrill

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you,
Because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

As scripture says: I am going to destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of any who understand. Where are the philosophers? Where are the experts? And where are the debaters of this age? Do you not see how God has shown up human wisdom as folly? Since in the wisdom of God the world was unable to recognise God through wisdom, it was God's own pleasure to save unbelievers through the folly of the Gospel. While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching the crucified Christ: to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who have been called, whether they be Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is both the power of god and the wisdom of God. God's folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.
I Corinthians 1: 19 - 26

Saturday 6 October 2007

II. Jesus carries his cross

My most beloved Jesus, I embrace all the tribulations you have destined for me until death. I beseech you, by the merits of the pain you did suffer in carrying your Cross, to give me the necessary help to carry mine with perfect patience and resignation. I love you, Jesus my love; I repent of having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you will.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.

II. Jesus carries his cross

The Martyrs of Atlas
Left to Right Back: Christian, Amedee, Jean Pierre, Luc, Philippe
Front: Christophe, Celestin, Michel

'Let's talk about the cross,' the Sufi said.
'Which one?' I asked him 'The cross of Jesus, obviously.' 'Yes, but which? When you look at the cross, you see an image of Jesus - but how many crosses do you see?' 'Perhaps three, certainly two,' The Sufi replied, thinking a bit. 'There is one in front and one behind.' 'Which one comes from God?' I asked him 'The one in front,' he said. 'Which comes from men?' 'The one behind' 'Which is the oldest?' 'The one in front...God had to create the first one before man could make the second one.' 'What is the meaning of the cross in front, of the man with his arms extended?' 'When I extend my arms,' he said, 'it is for embracing, for loving.' 'And the other?' 'The other cross is an instrument of hatred, for disfiguring love.' 'My Sufi friend had said, 'Perhaps three.' This third cross - isn't it perhaps he and I and this common effort to loosen ourselves from the cross of evil and sin behind, so we can bind ourselves to the cross of love in front?

From a homily for 14th September (The Triumph of the Cross), by Christian de Cherge, Martyr of Atlas

The third cross - the struggle of moving from hatred to love.
Jesus takes up his cross, and invites others to do the same. He invites others to struggle and move hatred to love. Christian de Cherge was a member of the Trappist community in Tibhurine, Algeria. He and 6 of his brethren were kidnapped and killed in the Spring of 1996, pawns in a murky negotiation to free imprisoned terrorists. Brother Christian made his journey from hatred to love through his determination to help Muslims and Christians recognise each others greatness. He completed his mission through his final letter in which he forgives his killer.

Thursday 4 October 2007

Faith and Food

I am going to put a new button on the blog to direct people to my favourite recipes and the occasions on which to gobble them! I link most food with particular feasts and fasts in the Church year, or with the passing of the seasons. I hope people will enjoy this new little series on the blog. Food, cooking it, eating it and growing it - is one of my passions. I am very happy to share it.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

II. Jesus carries his cross

If those who practise the mysticism of the passion were to regard the crucified Christ only as the archetype of their own pain and humiliation, they would indeed be maintaining the memory of his humanity and abasement, and would be making it a present reality in their own consciousness of abasement. But they would then be destroying what is distinctive about the person of Jesus and what is special about his suffering and dying. They would then be understanding his cross only in the general sense of 'cross and misery', as the passive suffering of an uncomprehended fate, like a miscarriage, an illness, a plague, an immature death, or suffering from the deep rooted evil of other people, as social suffering, and suffering from the society which humiliates them. But these would not be the sufferings of Christ. There is no mention in the Gospels of his suffering from nature and fate, and his economic sufferings as a 'carpenter's son'. Rather, his sufferings and humiliation came from his actions, from his preaching of the imminence of the kingdom as a kingdom of unconditional grace, from his freedom towards the law, and from his table fellowship with 'sinners and tax collectors'. Jesus did not suffer passively from the world in which he lived, but incited it against himself by his message and the life he lived. Nor did his crucifixion in Jerusalem come upon him as an act of evil destiny, so that one could speak of heroic failure, as heroes have often failed and yet remained heroes to posterity. According to the gospels, Jesus himself set out for Jerusalem and actively took the expected suffering upon himself. By proclaiming the righteousness of God as the right of those who were rejected and without grace to receive grace, he provoked the hostility of the guardians of the law.

The Crucified God - Jurgen Moltmann

The concept of Jesus taking up his cross has become synonymous with the idea that people should suffer in silence and accept their fate in life. Yet this is, to my mind, a complete injustice to the sacrifice of Christ, who in the taking up of his cross, rebelled against the prevailing authorities because he saw the truth of God's justice and was going to play a vital part in bringing it about.

Jesus chose to take up the cross on our account, no doubt about that. Key to this is that he shoulders his burden to bring peace to others, not to himself. The death he offered was a death of protest against all that is wrong with the world. In modelling ourselves on Christ, and taking up the cross, we are called to protest against that which we still find to be unjust, in our own communities and in communities around the world. This is not submissive, but active suffering. The cross is 'taken up', not passively 'recieved' .

Saturday 29 September 2007

II. Jesus carries his cross

The Second Station

II. Jesus Carries His Cross
Illustration: Carolyn Homes

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you,
Because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

They took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out to the Place of the Skull or, as it is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.

John: 19: 17

Friday 28 September 2007

I. Jesus is condemned to death

My adorable Jesus, it was not Pilate, no, it was my sins that condemned you to die. I beseech you, by the merits of this sorrowful journey, to assist my soul in its journey towards eternity. I love you, my beloved Jesus; I repent with my whole heart for having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you will.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.

Dear Jesus, you do go to die
For very love of me:
Ah! let me bear you company;
I wish to die with you.

I. Jesus is condemned to death

Walking the camino I met a Jewish man named Walter Koch, who at the time of my meeting him in October 2002, was 76 years old. He had been imprisoned in Auschwitz when he was fifteen years old, and on his body he bore terrible scars: lost ribs and teeth, and a number on his arm.

He was walking to Santiago de Compostela ( a pilgrimage to the shrine of St James the Apostle) for the third time. He was just about to complete 700.000 kilometres. I was embarrassed because at the end of a very long day walking, he over took me at a brisk pace proclaiming 'Lift your feet, peregrina. You are nearly home!'

He played a vicious game of dominos, and in a mixture of many languages told me his story. Much of his life was full of suffering and it led you to question 'why did this happen?' This was a question alien to Walter. He argued that the more important questions were not about the past, but the future. He did not walk on pilgrimage to reminisce about the past. He journeyed because of the past, but he walked into the future. The only question for him that was worth asking was not 'why did this happen?', but 'why are you walking?'.

The first question he could not answer and it made him angry, the second he could respond to, and it made him smile. 'Why am I walking?' - 'I am walking for peace - and against violence, against drugs, and against war.'

Primo Levi, an Italian Jew, was also in Auschwitz. He recounts how one day he was going crazy with thirst and he saw a beautiful icicle. He reached out to grab it and to suck it, but was stopped by a guard. So Levi said 'Warum?', 'Why?' And the guard replied, 'Hier ist kein warum', 'Here there is no "why?"' We may still all live through moments that are absurd, where there is no why or wherefore. Then we cannot seek for easy answers. It would be blasphemous to offer explanations. All we can do is trust that God is here.

Seven Last Words - Timothy Radcliffe

Thursday 27 September 2007

I. Jesus is condemned to death

Jesus rests in his Father, but the Father in turn does not allow him to rest. God appears to him as father, but the Father appears to him as God. God goes on being a mystery, being God, not man, and therefore different from and greater than all human ideas and expectations. God becomes temptation for Jesus when he has to discern true saving power. God becomes engima for him by absolutely holding back the day of the coming of the Kingdom, which Jesus had thought so close at hand. God becomes mystery for him when God's will goes beyond the logic of the Kingdom and demands an undreamt of suffering at the end of which lies the cross. God becomes scandal to Jesus when he listens to God's silence on the cross.

Jesus The Liberator: Jon Sobrino

There are two people in this story who suffer the loss of reason. Reason, given to humanity as a gift from God, is suddenly stripped from this scene leaving the two central characters with only their natural instincts to follow.

The sentence which Pilate hands down is a complete injustice, doubted even by his own convictions. Luke’s Gospel, in particular, gives no sense of Pilate understanding his actions. He is swayed by the will of the crowd and his will is subservient to their ambitions.

Jesus on the other hand, although in his humanity he was surely suffering from a similar abandonment of reason, remains obedient to the will of the Father. He can no longer understand what is happening to him, but when his human reason fails, he listens to God. Jesus had to surrender the gift of reason; the gift we need to inform our thoughts, prayers and actions. Human reason can't accommodate the ‘logic’ of the cross. In doing so he adopted the divine path: the road of obedience, faithful listening.

The disciples, at this point, had all fled from the scene, and from the way of the cross. And, who could blame them, since this would be a natural reaction. We all want to run away from the humanity which we find ‘ugly’ in life: the wounded, the sick, the homeless, the vulnerable, the dying. We can’t run away from such people, as we are sometimes tempted to do, because when Jesus chose to follow the will of the Father, he united himself with the ‘ugly’ things of life: pain and suffering.

We can't leave because in order to dignify someone it is necessary to acknowledge them, their experience, and their pain. If we do not do this we disregard them, ignore them and pretend they are not important. When we want to understand someone, particularly a person who has been through many trials, we listen very carefully. We imagine what they went through, feel compassion for their losses and empathize with their loved ones. In the same way, in order to 'dignify' the life of Jesus we are called to listen, imagine, feel and empathize. His obedience deserves our attention simply because it was this that led him through the cross to union with the Father.

Wednesday 26 September 2007

I. Jesus is condemned to death

The First Station

I. Jesus is condemned to death
Illustration: Ken Cooke

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. He said to them: ' You brought this man before me as a popular agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no grounds in the man for any of the charges your bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, so I shall have him flogged and then let him go.'
But as one man they howled, 'Away with him! Give us Barabbas!' (This man had been thrown into prison because of a riot in the city and murder.)
In his desire to set Jesus free, Pilate addressed them again, but they shouted back, 'Crucify him, crucify him!'. And for the third time he spoke to them, 'But what harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him flogged and then let him go.' But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts kept growing louder.
Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned because of rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.

Luke 23: 14 -25

Tuesday 25 September 2007

Godzdogz Creed

I have back posted this, as I thought it would be an appropriate way to begin the Stations of the Cross. My thanks to the Domincan Studentate for their hard work producing this beautiful sung Credo, and their commentary on the meaning and significance of the Creed. I recommend to all readers that they check out the Godzdogz link to be educated and inspired.

Preparing and Procrastinating

In general I prepare for any journey by procrastinating extensively. I write endless lists about what I should bring and what I should leave behind. Then I have a bout of conscience and think about the weight allowances of British Airways. I cross off half of what was on my list in the first place and begin to pack for the journey. When I get to the end of my list I pack the things I crossed off previously, and a then throw a few more bits in just in case - a posh skirt, a mirror - do I need a travel iron? I curse at check in and moan about the unnnecesarry restrictions. While I am away I use only a quarter of what packed, and in the end unpack at home reflecting about how much I didn't need to bring with me anyway.

For this journey though I have decided to bring with me just one thing. A thought from St John of the Cross. Please excuse me for writing it in Spanish first, it rhymes better.

Noche Obscura

En una noche obscura,
con ansia, en amores inflamada,
¡oh dichosa ventura!,
salí sin ser notada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada.

A oscuras y segura
por la secreta escala, disfrazada,
¡oh dichosa ventura!,
a escuras y en celada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada.

En la noche dichosa,
en secreto, que nadie me veía,
ni yo miraba cosa,
sin otra luz y guía
sino la que en el corazón ardía.

Aquesta me guiaba
más cierto que la luz del mediodía
adonde me esperaba
quien bien yo me sabía
en parte donde nadie parecía.

¡Oh noche que guiaste!
¡Oh noche, amable más que el alborada!
¡Oh noche que juntaste
Amado con amada,
amada en el Amado transformada!

En mi pecho florido,
que entero para él solo se guardaba,
allí quedó dormido,
y yo me regalaba,
y el ventalle de cedros aire daba.

El aire del almena,
cuando ya sus cabellos esparcía,
con su mano serena
en mi cabello hería,
y todos mis sentidos suspendía.

Quedéme y olvidéme,
el rostro recliné sobre el Amado;
cesó todo, y dexéme,
dexando mi cuidado
entre las azucenas olvidado.

On a Dark Night

On a dark night
When love burned bright
Consuming all my care,
While my house slept,
Unseen, I crept
Along the secret stair.

O blessed chance!
No human glance
My secret steps detected.
While my house slept,
I silent crept
In shadow well protected.

That blessed night
Concealed from sight,
Unseeing did I go,
No light to guide
But that inside
My eager heart aglow

A guide as bright
As noonday light,
Which brought me where he dwelt,
Where none but he
Could wait for me
And make his presence felt

Sweeter that night
Than morning light,
For Love did loving meet,
I knew him well,
And we could dwell
In ecstasy complete

I gave him there
My thought, my care,
So did my spirit flower.
Love lay at rest
Upon my breast
That cedar scented hour.

When morning air
Ruffled his hair
From off the ramparts blowing,
I felt his hand,
A quiet command
Tranquility bestowing.

Then face to face
With love’s own grace,
My fears no more parading,
I left them there
With all my care
Among the lilies fading.

Monday 24 September 2007


Beginning a journey into the unknown

The Shell of St James - Camino de Santiago

My Lord Jesus Christ, you have made this journey to die for me with love unutterable, and I have so many times unworthily abandoned you; but now I love you with my whole heart, and because I love you, I repent sincerely for ever having offended you. Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany you on this journey. You are going to die for love of me; I wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of you. My Jesus, I will live and die always united to you.
Alphonsus Liguori

Sunday 23 September 2007

Why would you write this?

Yes, it does seem strange for a young woman to write about such things, I agree. But, you see it is something that I have never really understood. I have read about the stations of the cross. I have even been present as people prayed the stations of the cross. I have heard excellent homilies about the stations of the cross. But, I have never, ever understood the stations of the cross.

Actually, I do not for a moment imagine that writing about the stations will help me to understand them. But I am hoping that it will make me appreciate my lack of understanding, and I am hoping that the more tired my intellect grows of trying to understand, the more I will be able to accept the fact that this particular spiritual practice was meant to be grasped. Practiced. Walked. Done. Felt. Definately not understood.

Thursday 30 August 2007

Learning through water

" Stars and blossoming fruit trees: utter permanence and extreme fragility give an equal sence of eternity....The vulnerability of precious things is beautiful, because vulnerabilty is a mark of existence." - Simone Weil

Without a doubt the strangest experience of Lourdes has got to be the baths. Last year, when I travelled to Lourdes for the first time, I had had visions of a picturesque pool in the shade of a grotto cave. People would be able to sit out all day and hop into the water to cool off when they felt like it - a bit like a religious trip to the beach. The waters of Lourdes were, in my fictional landscape, very similar to the pool at Bethsaida in John 5.

However, I was to be re-educated about the baths of Lourdes. These baths were organised with military precision, and it is hard to describe their appearance with any sense of charity. At best they resemble a cattle market crossed with a 1950's swimming pool, and to be honest, they have a very similar aroma. But their lack of aesthetic appeal does not appear to damage the power that the baths have on the pilgrims who drum up the courage to surrender themselves into the care of the Hospitalitie de Notre Dame de Lourdes.

For the record the history of the baths puzzles me, because I cannot work them into the original story of the instructions given by the Virgin to Bernadette Soubirous. Those instructions were:"Go and drink from the spring", "Go and tell the priests to build a chapel here", and "Have the people come here in procession". I guess these three things are what is at the heart of the rituals, bizarre as they come, which take place in Lourdes. But, drinking from the spring is not quite the same as jumping in, is it? But the story goes that one of Bernadette's friends, who had a dislocated shoulder plunged her arm into the little spring that sprung up in Lourdes and was miraculously cured. From there on, I guess people came with all sorts of needs for healing and so the tradition developed of people being bathed. Anyhow, the symbolism of completely immersing yourself is more powerful than just dipping in your toe.

When I was baptised as a child it was my mother who dressed me in white, and held me to comfort me, calming my nerves. In the baths of Lourdes it is possible to understand that, through reminding yourself of your baptism, you are guided once again into a position of vulnerability and become compelled to trust in a new mother/child relationship. The handmaids who help you to undress and dress, who clothe you in white like your mother once did, call on the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God. They calm your nerves, reassure you and care for you. The complete strangeness of the experience creates a need for you to trust rather than fear, relaxing into the care of Mary as you once were cared for in the arms of your mother.

This is a ritual of healing and re commitment, but there is not doubt that taking a bath at Lourdes is a nerve wracking process. Even the second time around you are not quite sure what will happen next. Waiting in line you cannot see the next step of your journey, people issue instructions, but they rarely explain anything. When you finally move into one of the cubicles to change you are not sure what might be ahead of you, and you find yourself waiting, wrapped in nothing but a blue cloak doubting your own sanity for letting yourself getting anywhere near such a bizarre situation. But the handmaids who care for you, and wrap you up in white, pray for you and lead you into the baths are gentle and considerate. Their discreet consideration of your body is a reminder of the complete physicality of Christianity. It demands that people accept their whole selves, body and soul I guess the process reminded me that our physical bodies are as important as our spiritual lives. Still, it is impossible to go through the experience of the baths without feeling completely vulnerable. For many people who come to Lourdes, especially those who are sick, the experience of the baths is poignant because their needs are made central. Lourdes revolves around the weak and the ill - those who are ordinarily marginalised are central to everything that happens, their needs are thought about and prayed for.

It is difficult to have the presence of mind to pray for anything during the experience of the baths, but it is easy to trust that whatever you are in need of will be given to you. And, after taking a bath two years in row, it is possible to say that it has done me no harm, and may even done me some good. I know that many people who read this blog will think it very strange, and I think it very strange myself, but still, I think it is an accurate reflection of what I have thought based on where I have been, and you can't say fairer than that.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Dressed down and not expecting visitors

"Pilgrim: when your ship, long moored in harbour, gives you the illusion of being a house; when your ship begins to put down roots in the stagnant water by the quay: put out to sea! Save your boat's journeying soul, and your own pilgrim soul, cost what it may!" - Helder Camara


I am not sure that it will be possible to explain about Lourdes. I do not understand it. I don't think anyone does. Helder Camara describes something about the need to be disturbed, and my experiences of Lourdes are certainly disturbing, uncomfortable even, but they are not negative. The faith of the crowds in Lourdes is raw, unrefined and primitive. There are no airs and graces: it is a family affair - Catholicism dressed down not expecting visitors. The vulnerability of humanity is displayed for all to see - not just in the sick, but also in the faces of people praying through every event of the pilgrimage. The faithful seem to forget to hide their emotions - fear of flying, nerves over travelling, homesickness, loneliness, depression, repression, guilt and exhaustion all make a public appearance on the journey to the grotto. Relief, joy, exuberance, forgiveness, hysteria, serenity and contentment find their expression too in the rituals, prayers and companionship of the people. That which is ordinarily hidden, buried deep under the illusion of respectability seems hung out to dry in Lourdes. All of a sudden you realise you are in a society which has no secrets, no subterfuge, no camouflage: human life here is emotional and messy.


With all of this comes a sense of disorientation. You wander around thinking 'what the hell am I doing here?' Swept along on the waves of the crowds for a while you can just watch and wait, listening carefully to all the seasoned Lourdes pilgrims talking about perplexing prayers, liturgies and rituals which are part of the daily routine: baths, stations, confession, torchlight procession, blessed sacrament procession, adoration, benediction, mass. Your senses are bombarded with the physical experience of prayer: the perfume of incense, and the smell of candles buring, people intoning the rosary, singing Ave Maria, the sound of running water the sight of millions walking, talking, kneeling, standing, sitting, pulling, pushing, praying. Whatever, you might be thinking at the time you begin to realise you are involved somehow in this drama. The sight of a young woman kneeling at the grotto in the dark, and cold pouring rain sometime around midnight brought me the one question that bothers me about Lourdes. It was freezing and the wind was blowing, and there was a positive flood on the ground. I was busy trying to figure out how I could get back to the hotel without being drenched to join the rest of the pilgrimage for some late night drinks, but there she was with an extraordinary display of piety. What on earth did she want? What do any of these millions of people want? Somehow or other my understanding of Lourdes has got to be related to the answer to this question. The strange rituals of Lourdes are all expressions of how people are wanting - hungering and, in the end receiveing. More on this later, I am going to try and figure a way of reflecting about some of the experiences I had one by one. I am not sure I will reach any level of understanding at all, but it might be a laugh to try!


Tuesday 21 August 2007

Cloister Prayer

This is the badge I am going to use for posts which talk about prayer.

Thank you Ellen you took this picture somewhere is France. It is really very excellent indeed.

Sunday 19 August 2007

Cloister Reading

Please find this icon on the left to direct you to thoughts about good books and poems that made me think.