If you know your history…

There is a famous Celtic song sung with gusto by the legions of wonderful fans of this great club at every game (No prizes for guessing which team I support.) and it has the words…

“Sure it’s a grand old team to play for; sure it’s a grand old team to see. And if you know your history, it’s enough to make your hearts go oh, oh, oh, oh!” (I don’t think it will win any awards for it’s lyrics or tune or be the next Eurovision entry, but it grabs the sentiment and the importance of never forgetting where you have come from.)

Last Saturday we dipped into the history books as we gathered to have our first Xaverian Day. About 30 of us spent the day discovering the roots of the Xaverian Family, its charism, mission, spirituality and implications for us today.

In the morning Angela led us in a beautiful welcoming liturgy and then we explored the life of the Founder Saint Guido Maria Conforti, the birth of the Xaverians and the characteristics of this Missionary Family.

In the afternoon Phil presented Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” – The Joy of the Gospel and facilitated input and discussion on the relevance of being missionaries today. Rose then helped bring the day to an end with a closing liturgy helping us to be reminded of what we had learned and what was shared.

Below is a part of the presentation I gave which hopefully might give readers a glimpse of who we are. We hope the day is the start of a journey where we can discover together our missionary vocation and how to live it.

The Xaverian Family.

The Origin and Charism

“The Spirit of the Lord animates the Church and constantly renews her awareness of her mission in the world. The same spirit inspired Bishop Guido Maria Conforti to dedicate himself to the evangelization of non-Christian, and to gather into one missionary community those called to consecrate their lives to God for the same ideal. Following our Founder, and reliving the same charism, we Xaverians respond to the Lord’s mandate “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” The life and the words of the Founder are a singular source of inspiration for our apostolic life.” (Constit.#1)

Who are we?

Presently we are a small family of priests, brothers, (700) sisters (200) and lay members/collaborators/ associates working in 20 countries throughout the world, founded in 1895.

Conforti’s Testament Letter, which he wrote in 1921 whilst presenting the new Constitutions for approval, is clear on the vocation of the Xaverian.

The Xaverian is to be apostolic.

“Our vocation draws us closer to Christ and to the Apostles, who leaving behind everything pledged themselves entirely to following Christ.”

So that dimension of Christ rooted but sent is essential for us.

The Xaverian is to be Religious.

Conforti saw that the Apostolic Life must be inseparably untied to the Religious Life. He said, “The Apostolic Life combined with the Religious life is the most is in itself the most perfect life possible according to the Gospel.”

His Institute was to be a religious-missionary one or none at all. Which was quite different from other Orders and Congregations emerging at that time.

Conforti saw the purpose of the vows was to focus the Xaverian completely on the proclamation of the Gospel.

The vows.

 “Poverty is the first sacrifice Christ demands of those who aspire to perfection or of following him more closely” characterised by Moderate Lifestyles.

Chastity is the vow which is seen as the total gift of self and gives a better witness in announcing the Good News.

Obedience, Conforti saw as the sacrifice to God of the greatest gift of freedom. It is there to make the missionary become solely an instrument in proclamation of the Gospel.

Mission and Community.

For Conforti there was also another dimension to the Religious-Apostolic Life and it was that of Mission. It was a fourth vow where the Xaverian must be prepared to commit to going to others (ad gentes) outside of his own culture (ad extra) for life (ad vitam) to “win as many as possible for Christ.”

Also Conforti wished that the religious community be the agent of mission. This would be a much better sign and a model of mission. Community is where the Xaverian tries to model the very Kingdom that is being announced. Harmony and fraternal love are indispensible…

“Let each one carefully protect the bonds of this sacred unity and avoid anything that could weaken it …Everything should be generously offered on the altar of fraternal harmony which makes the communal life of any institution strong and prosperous.” (TL)

He constantly insisted on this and one of his well known phrases was; “Love one another as brothers, but respect each other as Princes.”

Xaverian Spirituality.

Xaverian Spirituality derives from the spiritual experience of its founder, Saint Guido Maria Conforti. As the founder of it, he passed on his spiritual life to his “children” as the spirituality they should follow. At least, there are three main elements of his spirituality that are very remarkable in the Constitutions;

  • Christ-centered spirituality,
  • the love of the community/family,
  • the spirit of mission towards the poor, the marginalized and especially those who have not known Jesus yet.

Recent happenings.

April 2018, we celebrated our XIII Regional Chapter.

We set ourselves these objectives for those 4 years.

  1. Develop a mission spirituality
  2. Mission on the margins (Particularly interfaith dialogue.)
  3. Lay Participation and Formation

In October 2018 we took part in the first European Study Forum where for the first time we accepted that now Europe is a mission territory and the non-Christians are on our doorsteps.

We are in the process of developing how we respond to this paradigm shift in mission and may St Guido bless us with wisdom and courage.

Reflection on 25th Sunday: 22nd September 2019

Wise Management

“Give me an accounting of your management.” It may not have been those exact words but at some time in our life, probably many times, an accounting has been demanded eg from our loved ones, HMRC, our boss, our examination of conscience. Giving an accounting can be an uncomfortable and even a fearful time. We review our words and actions wondering, “What have I done? What have I left undone? What will happen to me? What will I do?” No one likes to have to give an accounting. We’re pretty private about our books. Not only do we not want others to see the balance, sometimes we do not want to see the balance ourselves. We do not want to face and deal with that reality. But that’s what this accounting asks of us.

Today’s gospel calls us to account for our management of all that we are and all that we have. The demand for an accounting often sounds like someone is in trouble. That’s how today’s parable begins. The manager has been charged with squandering his master’s property. He is going to be fired. He will lose his job, income, reputation, and status. A part of him is dying. At some level he will lose his life as he now knows it. We would expect the manager to get what he deserves. But that’s not how the kingdom of God works and parables rarely give us what we expect. So we ought not to be too quick to come to a final or definitive interpretation of this parable. The parable offers ambiguity and tension, not a neat resolution and that feels a lot like real life. The accounting that should have been the manager’s ruin became the starting point for a new life, new relationships, and a new home. The accounting demanded of this manager was both an ending and a new beginning, a death and a resurrection.

What if accounting is not about finding wrongdoing but new life? What if it’s about grace rather than punishment? That certainly changes our usual understanding of an accounting but isn’t that what parables are supposed to do? They change the way we see and understand. If a parable makes sense we’ve probably missed the point. The accounting of our management isn’t about numbers, wrongdoing, or punishment but about helping us see and orient our lives in a new direction. It enables us to respond to Jesus’ invitation: “Make your home in me as I make mine in you.” (John 15:4)

Michael Marsh

Fr Jim calls on the Church to lead on climate change

Our very own Fr Jim was interviewed recently by the Scottish Catholic Observer. They published an article based on the interview on the 6th September. You can read the article here.

Jim spoke out both for the indigenous population and for mankind in general. The wanton destruction of the rainforest affects us all. We may be distant but we are complicit by our carelessness. A quote from the article shows our connection to the problem “Fr Clarke said deforestation was taking place in the region when he worked there in 1987, as large companies such as McDonald’s were ‘using the land to farm cattle for their burgers.’” Even taking our children or grandchildren to McDonalds has consequences.

New calendar item: Sunday 6th October

We have a new special event that you may be interested in. Chris and Mary Cullen have organised the third “Mind and Body for your Wellbeing” event. To book click here.

We hope you will come and enjoy the space that this event provides. The aim is to provide some time and space where you can relax, refresh and renew a sense of balance in yourself.

  • Would you feel the benefit of some time to unwind or to destress?
  • Are you in a stressful work situation or in some aspect of your life?
  • Or would you simply value some down time,just for you,in the midst of your busy life? Maybe this event is for you!

The morning will include gentle yoga, breathing work, tai chi and mindful meditation to help restore a sense of balance within you.

Event Leaders:- Geoff Lofthouse and Helen Molyneux

Reflection on 24th Sunday: 15th September 2019

Make your home in me

The Younger Son

Leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home, and must look far and wide to find one. Home is the centre of my being, where I can hear the voice that says, “You are my beloved.” I have heard that never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity and giving life and love wherever it is heard. When I hear that voice, I know that I am home with God and have nothing to fear. The younger son in me returns home in the very moment that I reclaim my sonship.

The Elder Son

The ‘homelessness’ of the elder son is more difficult to identify. After all he was physically at home and did all the right things. The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realise how deeply rooted this form of homelessness really is and how hard it is to return home from there. Resentment and cold anger are not easily distinguished and dealt with rationally.
Both sons needed healing and forgiveness. Both needed to return home. Both needed the embrace of a forgiving father. All of us will someday have to deal with the elder son or the elder daughter in us. The question before us is simply: What can we do to make the return home possible? We must not only recognise that we are lost but must be prepared to be found and brought home. How? Although we are incapable of liberating ourselves from our frozen anger, we can allow ourselves to be found by God and be healed by his love through the concrete and daily practice of trust and gratitude. Trust is that deep inner conviction that the Father wants me home. Gratitude and resentment cannot co-exist since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as gift.

The Father

Today’s gospel is a story that speaks about a love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate. Though I am both the younger son and the elder son, I am not to remain them, but to become the Father. Do I want to be like the Father? Do I want to be not just the one who is forgiven, but also the one who forgives; not just the one who is being welcomed home, but also the one who welcomes home; not just the one who receives compassion, but also the one who offers it as well? The return home to the Father is ultimately to become the compassionate Father.


Henri Nouwen: The Return of the Prodigal Son

Reflection on 23rd Sunday: 8th September 2019

Rooted and Grounded in Love

In today’s Gospel, Luke tells us Jesus was addressing “large crowds” where there would have been people in a variety of different places in their relationship to Jesus and his teaching. So many must have asked, ‘Who exactly is this teacher?’ Some people in that crowd may have had some awareness that Jesus was everything we are created to be.

Where do we find ourselves in that ‘crowd’? Do we truly and deeply long for all that is best, deepest, and most real in the human condition? Or, are we willing to settle for something less? Are we willing to allow some human relationship or our possessiveness to prevent our living fully our identity as being created in God’s image? If we desire true life, if we desire to live deeply and authentically we must take up our cross and surrender over and over any attachment, any clinging that might in any way separate us from the fullness of God’s presence in our lives. We will then ‘be rooted and grounded in love and have the power to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of the love of Christ and be filled with the fullness of God’ ( cf Ephesians 3: 17 -19) We will grow in awareness that love is not really an action that we do. Love is what and who we are, in our deepest essence. Love is a place that already exists inside of us, but is also greater than us. We know that we’ve found a well that will never go dry, as Jesus says (cf John 4:13-14).

Choosing life with Christ means that every relationship we have with people and possessions must be understood from a new perspective. When we make that choice, we will eventually see that there is a tremendous irony in Jesus’ challenge to the crowds – and to us. Our growth in awareness of who we are in God will lead us to see others in their deepest essence and we will truly love “father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself.”

Adapted from various sources: Christopher Page, Nate Holdridge, R. Rohr

Reflection on 22nd Sunday: 1st Sept 2019

Do we know who we are?

A story is told of a gentleman at Los Angeles airport. Bad weather had led to the cancellation of many flights and consequently there were many people stranded and forming long queues in an attempt to change their flights. One gentleman, who had been waiting patiently in line for some time, finally left his place and stormed up to the counter demanding that the agent find him a first class ticket to Chicago and to do so immediately. When the agent very politely told him to go back to his place in the queue and wait just as everyone else had to do, he pounded on the counter and shouted, “Do you have any idea who I am?” The agent calmly picked up the microphone and made an announcement to the entire airport: “Ladies and gentlemen. There is a man here who has no idea who he is. If anyone can identify him, will they please come forward.” With that, the gentleman took his place in the queue and waited.

The more we grow in awareness of who we are in God, the more humble we will be and the more we will realise that we are all gifted and beautiful, faulted and broken in our own ways. And each of us is loved by the God who created and sustains us. That gives us a dignity that we don’t have to earn and that can never be taken away. Humility is an inner attitude that candidly allows us to know, love and accept ourselves. If we are humble, we see our talents and accomplishments as gifts and recognise our limitations and failures as opportunities for growth. Humility allows us to see ourselves honestly. Humility is a virtue which allows us to love ourselves with no pretences. Humility really frees us to be ourselves and to grow and change. Humility frees us from the need or compulsion to wear a mask and pretend to be someone else.

Since the humble are secure, they are strong. And since they have nothing to prove, they don’t have to flaunt their strength or use it to dominate others. Humility leads to meekness. And meekness is not weakness. Rather, it is strength under control, power used to build up rather than tear down. The humble are not threatened either by God’s greatness or the reflection of that greatness in the talents of others. In fact, this is what naturally catches their eye and absorbs their attention – the goodness of God, wherever it may be found. The form of prayer that extols God’s goodness is called praise. The activity that honours God’s goodness in other people is called affirmation. The humble take delight in praising God and affirming people.

Do we have any idea who we are?

Adapted from a talk given by Fr Ferrer Quigley O.P.

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