On the evening of Tuesday 26th Feb 2019 we had a visit from Fr Xavier Jeyaraj SJ . He spoke to an audience of about 40 on the theme of Social Justice and the Care of Creation. This is my personal reflection on some of the things he said to us.
“We are all connected and belong to one another.” We often deny this by speaking of ‘them ‘ as if those others we refer to are irrelevant, different, and inferior to ourselves.
“We are all leaders.” We often have mixed feelings about that. We want to be listened to but shrink from speaking out. We think we are right but we do not follow through and act.
“Where are we?” The state of the world is far from perfect. We are beset with issues including:
Extraordinary inequalities in the distribution of wealth.
Over exploitation of natural resources.
Exploitation of workers.
Populism, ‘fake news’, the ‘filter bubble’, avoiding anything that is challenging, uncomfortable or requires critical thought.
“We need Leaders of Hope.” Democracy must be rooted in spirituality, social justice and love.
“What do we need to be Leaders?” We must:
Be authentic and act with integrity. Remember that we ourselves are flawed, that we personally are sinners in need of forgiveness.
Think of others. Leaders being the Servants of others.
Foster leadership in others.
Listen and be attentive.
Be prophets, speaking truth to power.
“What can we do?” We can:
Build an inclusive society.
Take in realistic positive messages, avoid fear and defeatism.
Reflect on how we feel and not just what we think.
Discern, look into difficult issues and work out what is right and wrong. Develop our own spiritual resources and use them critically.
Be more friendly to the environment.
Stand alongside the vulnerable. Help those affected by economic and environmental stress.
Foster the leadership skills of the young.
Fr Xavier gave some simple examples of how we can become more friendly to the environment. For most of us these are a challenge. They sound simple but they are not. Take a simple case – “Use public transport, walk or cycle.” Our reaction is likely to be “Sorry, I don’t have time, it is too far and it is raining so I am going to drive.” We need to think and be creative.
After the talk Fr Xavier took questions. One of them brought us back to what we can do. Earlier Fr Xavier had told a powerful story about a clash of interest between a rich international mining company and villagers in rural India. The question was about how we, who are lucky enough to have a surplus, choose to invest. Do we think about how our money is used? Perhaps we should start there.
On Tuesday 26th February we will be hosting a talk by Fr Xavier on the subject of Social Justice and the Care of Creation. This is a big subject. How can we pray “Our Father…” and not care for His creation? How can we ignore our sisters and brothers when God is our Father?
Come and listen to Fr Xavier. Feb 26 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
An update on this event. Fr Xavier is going to speak at St Wilfrid’s Parish Centre in the afternoon and at the Xaverian Mission in the evening. He will present us with an interesting question “Is Leadership too important to be left to Leaders?”
Not all the events held at our Centre are public. Here is an account of one of those private group events.
On Saturday, December 1st. Women Together in the Diocese of Lancaster organised an Advent day of Prayer in the Xaverian Mission Spirituality Centre (formerly Tabor) Preston. It was led by Father Nyagasaza Bideri who runs the Centre. From the start, although it was a grey, wet and dreary looking day, we received a very warm, hospitable welcome from him. We felt immediately that he had been looking forward to our coming there and had been preparing for the day with care and enthusiasm. He told us that it was to be a day of joy!
The greatest reality in our lives is our relationship with God. So, first, to help us allow God to heal our hearts from all that hinders His love embracing us, Father Bideri led us in an unusual reflection on the elder brother of the prodigal son and his troubled relationship with the father. In an interactive session, together we identified all the troubling elements that the elder son refused to let go of in himself. In naming these we could let go of all the same elements we recognised in ourselves. So we were ready then to open up to the love of God at work in the lives of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus, tracing their spiritual journey through scripture and art.
We celebrated Mass together at midday and after lunch shared a very joyful session with carols and seasonal hymns illustrated on the computer as we enjoyed singing along. A half hour of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament then followed and we drew the day to a close with song and prayer and blessing, grateful to Father Bideri for this lovely introduction to the Advent Season.
Women Together has a long history in the Diocese of Lancaster since it was first established by Bishop Brewer to give women a voice and opportunities to deepen and develop their faith and encourage the service that flows from that. So on the same day the organising committee took the opportunity for a “grass roots” consultation with all who came. In the spirit of Pope Francis we know that we need to listen and learn from women themselves what kind of topics and days they want to share. We asked permission to use their contact details for future publicity as we will see what suggestions were made and what can then be planned ahead.
Philomena Grimley SHCJ
This article first appeared in the Diocesan VOICE and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.
Kevin, one of our Newsletter subscribers, has emailed us this morning.
“Just wanted to share a lovely film I’ve watched this afternoon about a young girl from Derry in Ireland who grew up amongst the troubles with two vocations – she wanted to be famous and had many gifts, she was also being called to be a Nun and give her life completely to God
It’s a very moving and inspirational film that tells her life story – a beautiful life, a life given completely to God and given in service for others. She was sadly and tragically killed in an Earthquake in Ecuador in April 2016.
She was an ordinary girl, yet with extraordinary gifts and she ended her life fulfilling her vocations – to be a famous nun!”
On Monday the 10th December John Battle, former MP for Leeds West, came to speak to an audience of 60 or more on this intriguing theme. Bishop Paul gave the introduction and then John energetically set about talking us through some of his experiences, first as an MP and then later with Citizens UK before he invited us into group discussion and a signpost of what may follow.
What follows is a personal recollection of, and reflection on, the talk. Others will have a different take. It is in the spirit of the talk for me to encourage you to ask them.
We are called to link prayer and action. Powerful things can happen as a result of bringing people together and sometimes especially powerful things come from bringing what conventional wisdom labels the ‘wrong type of people’ together.
There is a need for us to transform ourselves and the society we live in. We need to improve. It can be better.
There is a need for leadership but also for strong local groups to form and cross link. It is not ‘them’ it is ‘us’. We need come together and express what is important to us. We need to define “What are our shared goals?” We need to learn to listen to each other.
Citizens UK is a movement of the people. Existing groups with a strong identity can be cross linked to other groups in dialog and build a consensus and pressure for change.
Politics is not all about the Westminster Parliament, it should be about how we, as mature citizens, as a society, want to shape our world.
Citizens UK aims to facilitate the discussion, foster the leadership, help make the connections and so bring us all together to become a powerful force for changes we collectively want.
Following on the success in other towns and cities, Citizen UK have plans and a tentative timetable for Preston. Watch out! Do we get involved or run away? It is all to play for.
On Monday we have an evening discussion with John Battle MP. You may know John from his articles which have often been featured in The Tablet.
John Battle, a former MP, is a member of Leeds Citizens and the Chair of the Leeds Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission is coming to speak on the theme “Love Needs to be Organised”.
The talk will be introduced by Bishop Paul Swarbrick and followed by a group discussion and questions.
The title of the talk is taken from a line in Pope Benedict’s First Encyclical “Deus Caritas Est”. John believes that we need to do things, to change things for the better and that requires that we get organised. Referencing the relationship between prayer and action. He will draw analogies from the ruins of Kirkstall, a Cistercian Abbey near Leeds and Armley Remand Prison following Thomas Merton’s theme of the relationship between contemplation and action.
This will be a good evening. Click here for more details.