Tuesday, 17 June 2014


This week I went into the school chapel. I found there a large silver bowl into which I had poured sand during Lent. It had not been touched since and the sand had gone hard and heavy. The bowl had been intended as the receptacle of many prayers for family, friends and loved ones during the season of Lent. But, it had never been used.

In Lent, after a long discussion with those in charge of such things, it was decided that to have unsupervised devotional candles in Chapel was a bad idea. Instead, ordered to my pigeon hole, came small battery operated tea lights that could be neatly placed before the altar.

Fake Candles.

Something about this bothered me. But, I am not about to start a revolution. I can see the health and safety point. However, prayer for me is not electronic. It is elemental, real. The tools for prayer are tools through which I can reflect on the presence of the divine incarnate in this world: earth (posture), air (breathing), fire (inspiration) and water (reminder of my baptism, calling to serve). A fake candle was about as far from real inspiration as I could get. 

Still there were other elements I could include in a safe environment that could bring the beating heart back to prayer: wood, salt, bread, wine. Therefore, Lent passed without me making too much of a fuss. I was touched by the number of small flickering electrics lights were turned on each day, and even had to change some batteries.

Soon we will arrive at the Feasts of the Sacred Hearts. I am reminded of it by the turn of the liturgy to Pentecost and Trinity, and by my dreams. Perhaps you will remember an odd dream I had of a party, with Jambalaya and Rose, music, dancing, good company and a green ring. That dream was about friendship, love and vocation I suppose, although I never really understood it. Well, the ring is back in recent dreams, shiny and green as it ever was. Last night I was travelling on pilgrimage (walking), and then by bus with a group, some were friends, but others i did not know. There was a man there wearing the ring (no longer Timothy Radcliffe TBTG), but I did not know where he was leading. I was happy and content to follow along, not afraid anymore. I was sometimes silent and taking in the view, sometimes talking to others, always keeping my eye on the diamond green.  My dreams are like a serial novel, I am always waiting for the next episode. I look forward to the next instalment.

Ironically, I do not put great stock by dreams. I would rather write about reality, the way things are in flesh and blood, than hark on about the imaginings within the dark recesses of my mind.

I am haunted by the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Do not run away. I am not mad. But, in my dreams and day dreams I often see them in my mind's eye. On the occasions when I struggle to sleep, in my mind, it is to the chapel of the Sacred Heart I walk, stand, wonder, pray. None of this is that unusual I do not suppose, some people lie awake and count sheep, some stare at stars, I go walking. All my little mental trips to the heart of the divine have the same theme: God and faith occupy messy everyday reality. Hearts beat in flesh and blood, they need earth, air, fire and water to begin; bread and wine to continue. If the Feasts of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are about anything they are about how special the love of Christ and His Mother is. Special not because they are separate from the fundamental basics of everyday living, those elements that make us real, but because they are part of them.

I suspect that is way I was bothered by the fake candles. Fire is elemental. You cannot deconstruct it, take it apart, turn it off and on again. For me, prayer is elemental too. Basic, not complicated: 'My heart is restless, O God, until it rests in you'  - Augustine

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Truth (a repost)

Wisdom to learn
Knowledge to reason
Judgement to listen
Courage to speak
Understanding to love
Reverence to worship
Wonder to live

I wrote this some time ago, and this is the third time I have posted it on this blog. It is the season of Pentecost and so these gifts have been on my mind. Do I use them well? Pray for them when they are lacking? 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Be good to yourself, be good to others

I have been trying to be more healthy of late. This has led to me looking up and experimenting with new and exciting recipes, ones with less of everything that is meant to be bad for me and more of everything that is meant to be good for me.

I am reluctant 'dieter'. In fact, I hate the word. I find it positively offensive when people refer to certain foods as 'sinful', 'naughty' or 'bad'. If I were to use the word 'sinful' to describe food it would be because the way in which it was produced was in some way evil. For example, I recently read the tragic case of Burmese slaves being kept on board ships and forced to work, under the threat of violence and death, so that their bosses could be part of the supply chain that brings us in the UK prawns. Prawns are delicious, but they are not worth that. Under those circumstances, with the knowledge I have, eating prawns produced in Thailand, likely to have been produced in one of these supply chain lines, would be sinful. 

Tonight I ate Peach and Chickpea curry. It was an experiment, a first. And, it was delicious! The recipe came from the lovely, inspiring Jack Munroe. A woman who has single handedly brought the issue of food poverty to the attention of political leaders. Recently Jack has been feeding herself on just £5 per week in order to demonstrate the reality of trying to live below the poverty line in the UK. You can read about here campaign here

So then, food can be good, and food can be bad, but none of that has anything to do with the harvest of good and beautiful nature itself. Food in it's natural state is good, good, good. The work of divine and human hands. Food is one of the many things that completely unites the human family, we all need it. So, food is also one of those things through which we can be fair to, and conscious of others. Everything I cook in my kitchen has been sown, grown, picked, packed, transported and sold by a neighbour. Knowing that, thinking that through each day, helps when it comes to remembering to buy fair and waste not.

Here is Jack's recipie. It is amazing. Try it.

250g tinned chickpeas
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 chilli
a splash of oil
a shake of ground cumin
1 vegetable stock cube
1 x 400g tin of peaches
1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
a handful of fresh coriander

(I measured nothing, used an extra sweet red bell pepper, and replaced coriander with spinach, but there you go)

Drain, rinse and boil your chickpeas in fresh water for 10 minutes. Finely chop the onion, garlic and chilli, and fry this gently in a pan. Add cumin.

Drain the tin of peaches, reserving the sweet juice. Chop the peaches into generous chunks. Add these to the gently simmering onion mixture and sprinkle the stock cube over. Add the sweet peach juice mixture. Add the chopped tomatoes and coriander. Cook gently for about 30 minutes, until all the flavours have blended.

Serve with plain boiled white rice.