Reflection on 21st Sunday: 25th Aug 2019

Choose Life

Today’s Gospel is a patchwork quilt of images: who will be saved, the narrow door, closed door, the master of the house refusing entry, the kingdom of God, being outside the kingdom, weeping and grinding of teeth, people coming from East and West, being first, being last. Perhaps this passage doesn’t fit in with our concept of a God who loves unconditionally. The temptation may be to file this gospel passage under ‘Remind me later’ or we may want to press the delete button! We may also try to unravel only one image and focus on that. How can we bring these images, these ‘patches’ together to create a beautiful work of art and then wrap this ‘quilt’ around us so that once more we experience the reassuring warmth of God’s eternal and unconditional love.

Perhaps the thread that joins the patches together is our gift of freedom. Most of the world religions have some concept of heaven and hell. Why? Because human freedom matters. We have to be given the freedom to say no to love and life, and one word for that is hell. Heaven and hell are not geographic places. They are states of consciousness and they are right now. We choose right now if we want to live in a living relationship with God and our neighbour or we choose to live a life of excluding others, protecting our own individual identities and possessions no matter what it takes to do so, choosing separation from the source of all life, love and joy. We are choosing our destiny right now. Do we want to live in constant opposition to others and life itself? Or do we want to live in love and communion?

When we choose love and life we choose to walk through ‘the narrow door’. Jesus’ listeners would have known he was referring to the ‘Eye of the Needle Gate’ in Jerusalem. The gate was so small that a man would have had to unload his camel of all that it was carrying and then carefully lead his camel through this small gate. Jesus is inviting us to let go of any baggage that prevents us from moving forward. However frightening that might feel, we need always remember that everything that matters, from all the experiences and encounters in our lives, has been internalised and is always part of us. It will continue to enrich us. When we realise this, we will find a new freedom in letting go of all that does not matter; we will be saved right now (‘saved’ is from the Greek meaning true wellness, complete wholeness); we will experience God within us right now.

Adapted from various sources: Donal Neary, Margaret Silf, R.Rohr

Reflection on 20th Sunday: 18th August 2019

I came to bring fire to the earth

Anthony de Mello tells the following parable of the man who invented fire: “A long time ago, there was a man who invented the art of making fire. He took his tools and visited a tribe in the north, where the climate was bitter cold. The man taught the people how to make fire. And the people were spellbound. He showed them many uses for fire: they could cook, keep themselves warm, keep predators at bay and dance by firelight. So they built fire and were very grateful. But before they could express their gratitude, the man disappeared, because he wasn’t concerned with recognition or gratitude. He was concerned only with their well-being.

The fire-making man visited a different tribe, and began to teach the art of making fire. Like the first tribe, this tribe was mesmerised. But the tribe members’ passion unnerved the tribe’s leaders. It didn’t take long for them to notice that the fire-making man drew large crowds, and the leaders worried about lost influence and power. Because of their fear, the leaders determined to kill the fire-making man and they devised a clever plan because they were worried that the tribe people might revolt. Can you guess what they did? The leaders made a portrait of the fire-making man, and displayed it on the main altar of the temple. The instruments for making fire were placed in front of the portrait, and the people were taught to revere the portrait and to pay reverence to the instruments of fire. The veneration and the worship went on for centuries. But there was no more fire.”

The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

New calendar event

Do you wonder what all the fuss is about Climate Change? Does it matter? Is it somebody else’s problem?

Some countries are more exposed than others to the effects of Climate Change. Come and listen to a salutary talk about the Future of Food at the St Wilfrid’s Parish Centre on the 30th September 2019 at 7pm.

See here for more details. Remember that if you use an electronic calendar then you can subscribe to our calendar and never miss an event.

Reflection on 19th Sunday: 11th August 2019

Waiting

“In many ways, waiting is the missing link in the transformation process.
I’m not referring to waiting as we’re accustomed to it, but waiting as the passionate and contemplative crucible in which new life and spiritual wholeness can be birthed.”

Sue Monk Kidd: When the Heart Waits

One reality of life is waiting; waiting for someone to show up, for something to happen, for things to change. Another reality of life is that most of us do not like waiting. We look for the shortest line at the supermarket or we become impatient, even angry, waiting for someone who is slow or inattentive. At some level waiting takes place every day. Each of us could name the things or people for which we wait. Sometimes we live with the overwhelming feeling of waiting but with no clear idea of what we are waiting for. In our waiting, we generally don’t wait in the present. We either move into the past or into the future. The great tragedy is that in doing so we lose the present moment. That’s part of what makes waiting so painful and difficult. Waiting in the past brings sadness, anger, or guilt about things that have happened, or the things done and left undone. Waiting in the future most often brings fear and anxiety about what will happen. We are haunted by the unknown and lack of control.

In today’s gospel Jesus is teaching us how to wait. He’s inviting us to be present to the One who is always already present: “Do not be afraid. It has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” The ‘kingdom’ is God’s life within us. (cf Luke 17:21) We are not waiting until we die to enter the kingdom. We don’t die into it. We awaken into it. (Cynthia Bourgeault) If we allow our waiting to be a time of growing awareness of the reality of God within us, within each other, within creation and within the circumstances of our lives, then it will be a time of transformation, a time when we discover the inexhaustible treasure within us, a treasure which no ‘thief’ can take from us.

We might be tempted to ask, “Where is God in all our waiting?” But maybe the better question is “Where are we?”

Adapted: M.Marsh. R.Rohr

“Go and ask your Dad.”

My Dad has many wise sayings… usually around drink. When someone bought him a drink it was either; “Your face I may forget. Your kindness, never!” or “May your giving hand never wither!” What a philosopher the old man is! One other which he quoted frequently to us, usually around exam times, was “If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail.”

On Monday and Tuesday (12/13th of August) we will be meeting in Coatbridge, looking at our plans for the next three years as a Region. As well as the Xaverians actively involved in our centres in Preston, Coatbridge and the Parish in Glasgow, Hugh Foy, the UK programmes director and our new recruit Phil Callaghan, Deputy Director of Programmes, will meet to pray, reflect and strategise the priorities and our activities until the next Regional Chapter in 2022. Hopefully in the next few weeks we will highlight the way ahead for us as the UK Region and give more direction and focus to our presences in Scotland and England.

Coupled with these meetings, here in Preston, we will be preparing for our Xaverian Charism Day on September 14th. On that day we hope to understand better the vision of Conforti, the history of the Xaverian Family, the lived out Xaverian Vocation and develop our mission spirituality too. In this exploration day we hope that we all emerge better prepared to make mission happen in the here and now. This will be a chance for us to take seriously Pope Francis’ invite to become missionary disciples!

We also are putting on hold the proposed Open Day which was scheduled for 7th of September. Why we meet, what we do, how we fundraise, socialise, bring people together, use our resources, reach out… will hopefully creatively come forth when we have a better handle on what being a missionary is today.

“Every day is a school day!” – another one of Dad’s pearls of wisdom – reminds us that we learn, grow, better ourselves… if prepared to do so. So let’s seize the moment and allow God to speak to us, through us and among us, so that the idea of failing might never be an option.

Jim

Reflection on 18th Sunday: 4th Aug 2019

Enoughness

I was in a plane descending into Portland and I gazed upon a brilliant pink sunrise over blue and purple mountains, and my heart ached. Instinctively, I looked over to Eva to share this breath-taking moment, but she was sleeping. I felt incomplete, not being able to share the moment with her, or with anyone. Its beauty was slipping through my fingers. This was a teachable moment for me: I somehow felt this moment wasn’t enough, without being able to share it. It took me a second to remind myself: this moment is enough. It’s enough, without needing to be shared or photographed or improved or commented upon. It’s enough, awe-inspiring just as it is.

I’m not alone in this feeling, that the moment needs to be captured by photo to be complete, or shared somehow on social media. We feel the moment isn’t enough unless we talk about it, share it, somehow solidify it. The moment is ephemeral, and we want solidity and permanence. This kind of groundlessness can scare us. This feeling of not-enoughness is fairly pervasive in our lives:

  • We sit down to eat and feel we should be reading something online, checking messages, doing work. As if eating the food weren’t enough.
  • We get annoyed with people when they don’t act as we want them to — the way they are feels like it’s not enough.
  • We feel directionless and lost in life, as if the life we have is not already enough.
  • We procrastinate when we know we should sit down to do important work, going for distractions, as if the work is not enough for us.
  • We mourn the loss of people, of the past, of traditions … because the present feels like it’s not enough.
  • We are constantly thinking about what’s to come, as if it’s not enough to focus on what’s right in front of us.
  • We reject situations, reject people, reject ourselves, because we feel they are not enough.

What if we accepted that this moment will slip away when it’s done, and we saw the fleeting time we had with the moment as enough, without needing to share it or capture it? What if we paused and accepted this present moment, and everyone and everything in it, as exactly enough? What if we needed nothing more?

Leo Babauta

The week ahead: 4th August – 10th August

Highlights this week include two monthly events at the Centre.

The ‘Women At Prayer’ group meet again this coming Wednesday 7th Aug 2-3pm in the prayer Room. There will be some time of input, sharing and quiet reflection. All women welcome. Donation £3 requested towards the running of the centre.

It is also the Labyrinth group meeting in the evening of the same day. 7 – 9pm

If you have not tried these then please do feel free to come along. You will receive a warm welcome and a gentle time of reflection.

In addition there is the monthly rosary at the Carmelite Monastery Church, St Vincent’s Road on Tuesday 6th August at 2pm.

New wine, new wineskins…

Sometimes reality hits us hard. A few years ago, in my home Parish in Scotland, one of the Altar Servers asked if I was Father Clarke. When I replied that I was, she then continued… “Yes, you were at school with my Grandad. ”After the initial shock, I have since invested heavily on anti-wrinkle cream and anti-depressants, but the numbers don’t lie. And so it is great to announce that we are having an injection of youth to the old skins at 169.

On July the 1st we welcomed to our Regional and Preston Centre staff, Phil Callaghan who will be beefing up the team (as if I need beefing up) and will be jointly responsible for the Administration at the Xaverian Centre and as Deputy Director of Programmes for the UK Region.

Phil is from Manchester (but don’t hold that against him) and a big United fan (bless him). He has extensive experience as a lay person working in the Church. He has worked as a hospitality worker at the Quaker Meeting House, worked freelance in adult formation and in preparing and managing an event for Catholic young adults in the lead up to the Synod of Bishops’ on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment. He has been a Development Worker for the Young Christian Workers (YCW) and was also the National President between 2011 and 2017 as well as being involved in the Salford Diocese Lourdes Pilgrimage.

Phil studied at Heythrop College, London where he obtained a BA in Theology. It was there where Phil first encountered the Xaverians, as our confrere Rocco Viviano was studying and teaching there.

Phil came and did some YCW training in Coatbridge a few years ago and myself and Hugh took part in a YCW weekend at that time. We were both impressed by Phil’s deep faith, his love of the Gospel, his sense of justice and general desire to reach out as a missionary disciple.

Our Region felt the need to give Preston a real go and Phil’s presence with us, along with his youth, enthusiasm, energy and experience, will aid that greatly. We will also have a few changes in the make up of the Xaverian Community, which will see three Xaverians and Phil actively dedicated to programmes and projects at the Preston Centre (Watch this space).

To this end we are also having a day of Formation on Mission Spirituality and the Xaverian Charism on September 14th, where hopefully together we can look at being missionaries, here and now and plan meaningful activities. Also on September 7th we will have an Open Day to allow people to come and meet us.

The summer has been mixed, in terms of weather. As I write this it is raining heavily whereas two days ago it was tropical. From speedos and sandals to Wellies and waterproofs… such is life. We hope too that as we move on in the next few months, things will get heated up in terms of our activities and our initiatives and that our wine will be bubbly, refreshing and energising.

Please join us in these exciting times!

Quiet days

Late July and August have always been quiet days at the centre and activity levels are down as people leave for their Summer holidays.

Check the calendar for news of the events and if you are going away then have a great time.

Reflection on 16th Sunday: 21 July 2019

Only One Thing

Unfortunately, today’s gospel story has often suffered from dubious interpretations, with Martha becoming the poster child for all that is imperfect with the life of busyness, the implication being that this life is inferior to a perfect life of contemplation. Most of us want to defend Martha probably because we have been in similar situations and can identify with her. The way in which she spoke to Jesus reveals her feelings of resentment, perhaps her own martyr complex, her need to be appreciated, needed and loved. Martha was everything good and right, but she was not present. This kind of goodness does little good! Distracted by her feelings, she couldn’t possibly have been fully present to herself and to the many tasks involved in the meal preparation. If she was not present to herself, Martha could not be present to her guests in any healing way, and spiritually speaking, she could not even be present to God. How we are present to anything is how we can be present to God, to ourselves, to loved ones, to everyone.

While we might distinguish between Mary and Martha there is a common theme: presence. “Only one thing is necessary,” Jesus says. The real gift is to be happy and content, even when we are doing the ‘nothingness’ of a chore, a repetitive task, or silent prayer. We can experience the ‘one thing’ whether we are sitting at the feet of the sage or engaged in service in the kitchen, or wherever we finds ourselves.

The presence of God is infinite, everywhere and forever. We cannot not be in the presence of God. There’s no other place to be. It is we who are not present to Presence. We’ll make any excuse to be somewhere else than right here. Right here, right now never seems enough. It actually is, but it is we who are not aware of that yet. Presence lies at the heart of life, prayer, and relationships. All spiritual teaching—this is not an oversimplification—is about how to be present to the moment. When we are present, we will experience the Presence.

Various sources: M. Marsh, J.Osten, R.Rohr