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

Reflection on 15th Sunday: 14 July 2019

Love your neighbour as being yourself

“Love your neighbour as yourself.”  So often we think of our ‘neighbour’ as separate from ourselves, someone whom we try to love with the same amount of love as we love ourselves, when it really means that it is the same Source and the same Love that allows each of us to love ourself, others, and God at the same time! In and with God, we can love everything and everyone—even our enemies. Alone and by ourselves, our willpower and intellect will seldom be able to love in difficult situations over time. Many people try to love by willpower, with themselves as the only source. They try to obey the second commandment without the first. When we grow in our awareness that “in Him we all live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), we will grow in the realisation that we are all truly in Love and we will then hear Jesus’ words to mean “Love your neighbour as being yourself.”

Pietro Archiati

The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) (detail), Vincent Van Gogh, 1890.

Our transformed consciousness will enable us to surrender to Love, to allow God to see our woundedness, to see and love us as we really are rather than what we ideally wish to be. We will then want to give others this same experience of divine love, of being looked upon tenderly in their woundedness, be it physical, emotional or psychological. We will want to reach out to our ‘neighbour’ with compassion, notice his/her wounds and touch them with gentleness. For us all to grow in love, “all must come to the light, both the dark parts of oneself that need healing and the light parts that need birthing. “

Cynthia Bourgeault

Often young children are more in touch with the ‘light parts that need birthing’. When asked by their four-year old child what ‘Namaste’ meant, the parents explained that each person is saying, “I bow to God in you.” With an all-knowing look, the child replied, “But Mama. The God in you is the same God that’s in me.”  Out of the mouths of babes…

Main source: Richard Rohr’s meditations. Adapted

Reflection on 14th Sunday: 7 July 2019

One word that occurs in all three readings today is “peace”. Isaiah speaks of God sending “flowing peace, like a river”. Paul speaks of the peace and mercy that come to all who become “an altogether new creature”, a genuinely transformed person in the image of Jesus. And, in the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to bring peace with them to every house they enter. This peace is not dependent on outside circumstances. It can exist even when we are surrounded by storms. It is the peace Jesus experienced after his prayer in the garden. It is the peace that Paul experiences, even though he has had his share of the “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” and bears in his own body the marks of Jesus’ pain and suffering.

What is this peace? “When we keep our spiritual centre, our spiritual ground; when we know what is essential i.e. to know who we really are at our deepest level, then we experience true peace. Only then can we share what we have to offer.”

R.Rohr

We are called today to become labourers with Jesus in the harvest that is the society in which we live. It is a society that seems so rich and prosperous and yet is so impoverished of the security and peace it so frenetically seeks to find. We are called today to labour so that our society may be gradually transformed into a place where the values of the Gospel, often so little understood even by ourselves, will prevail.

Christianity is not an end in itself. It is simply a very effective way of becoming that altogether new kind of human person that Jesus and Paul speak about. This new person has a deep sense of both God’s utter transcendence and utter immanence, the God who constantly calls us beyond where we are and who, at the same time, deeply penetrates our being and our every experience. This new person lives a life of perfect integrity and truth, a life of deep compassion and concern. This new person lives in freedom and peace.

Living Space / Sacred Space

“Let there be an opening into the quiet that lies beneath the chaos, where you find the peace you did not think possible and see what shimmers within the storm.”

John O’ Donohue

Reflection on St Peter and St Paul: 30 June 2019

St Peter and St Paul

Today we celebrate and reflect on the significance and importance of Saints Peter and Paul. By removing them from their ‘saintly pedestals’ and seeing them as the men they were: flawed and fallible, we can see why God uses them to offer us a hope for our own response to His presence in our lives. In the Gospels, Peter invariably gets it ‘wrong’. He denies Jesus three times after having promised to die with him; he is impetuous and responds instinctively rather than with thought. Paul, a highly educated Pharisee had a fiery personality and was a persecutor of Christians.

Today’s readings show us how these two men came to experience Jesus the Christ. Peter followed Jesus, thinking Jesus was a good man, a great man, one who invited him to share life, one who was more human than anybody he had ever met. In the story today Peter was given the insight to see that Jesus was more than just a mere human. “You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God.” Paul’s journey was different. He began by persecuting the followers of Jesus, putting them in jail and maybe even punishing with death. Then, through the graciousness of God, he experiences Jesus the Christ. It is then he changes, he realises who Jesus is, and begins his preaching.

Our journeys may not be so dramatic, but “God meets us where we are and makes a healing and expanding presence known to us in the exact way we are most ready to experience it. God fills our hearts in whatever measure we are open to the Spirit. When we fall into God’s mercy, when we fall into God’s great generosity, we find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than we are. We know it is total gift.”

Fr. Richard Rohr

Once we know Jesus, and have experienced him, we are sent. Jesus makes himself known not so we can keep him to ourselves, but so that we can spread the Good News of his love, mercy, justice and peace. To be disciples we gather and we are sent into the world to preach by our lives and words the Good News: Jesus is alive and with us. As Pope Francis says, “The Church is not missionary in order to preserve itself, but to transform the world through love and healing, through walking with those in need and who struggle.”

Various sources

For the love of Saree …by Barkha Rani

Saree is one of the most well-known silhouettes of Indian fashion. The beauty of the saree is non parallel and the way it beautifies Indian women is why all of us admire sarees. Saree is the identity of Indian women and sets them apart. Most foreigners upon seeing a woman wearing a saree would instantly recognise that the woman belongs to the Indian subcontinent.

Saree speak has created a platform to celebrate this beautiful garment and the ladies who wear them. Saree Speak is an informal Facebook group created by an Indian lady called Vini Tandon. It has more than 110 thousand members all over the world mainly from the Indian subcontinent. The numbers are growing across the globe and women from the Indian diaspora are more enthused now to celebrate their sarees.

In Preston, Lancashire, a group of women who were inspired by Saree speak decided to celebrate the essence of womanhood and their love of sarees. Sixty five ladies attended this event held at the Xaverian mission spirituality centre in Fulwood, Preston on Friday 14th June 2019.

It is thought that there are more than 100 different types of sarees and ladies came wearing varied types of sarees from all over India. To name a few , Paithani from Maharashtra, Pochampally from Andhra Pradesh, Kanjeevaram from Tamil Nadu, Kasavu from Kerala, and Bandhani from Rajasthan. Ladies also wore sarees in different styles. Apart from the conventional style, we had women wearing sarees in Gujarati, Bihari, Navvari style and some experimental ladies wore trendy frill saree and fusion saree.

As the theme of the evening was about saree, the two comperes were successful in capturing the attention of the audience by discussing various aspects of a saree. There were women who spoke about their fond memories of wearing a saree, their strong emotional attachment to saree and their admiration for strong loving women in their lives who wore sarees and passed it on to them like mothers, mothers in law and grandmothers. A lady spoke of her pride about buying sarees for her daughter’s wedding, one spoke about being brought up wearing saree in Gujarati style and marrying a boy from Karnataka where saree is worn in a completely different fashion. There was another who explained how the Navvari style of wearing saree evolved. The children and youngsters also talked about how they feel when they see their mother in a saree and how in the future they might consider wearing a saree.

Ladies exhibited their singing and dancing talent. There was a dance medley of various dance forms from across India. The crowd was allowed to hone their dancing skills by a Bollywood dance tutorial. The pièce de résistance was a fashion show where all ladies walked the ramp exhibiting their proud saree.

The evening ended with a scrumptious Indian Buffet dinner and an open dance floor where the ladies danced away to pure happiness in their lovely sarees. We all got to know a little bit more about each other, mingled and laughed and celebrated womanhood and regaled in the one thing that bound us all together for that evening – saree!

In this women dominated event, there was one man who aided the event by letting us use the venue and helping with the organisation. A big thanks to dear Father Cosmito.

The support from true friends is priceless and this event would not have been possible without the lovely group of friends I am surrounded by. I thank each and every one of them for their contribution and hard work.

Elegance is the only beauty that never fades and saree is one of the most elegant of fashion garment across the globe. Let us celebrate this lovely garment today and every day. Look out for the next saree speak event in Preston next year.

Reflection on Corpus Christi: 23 June 2019

Do this in memory of me

When we read the words in today’s second reading: “Do this in memorial of me”, we may think of a memorial service, something that commemorates a person or an event of the past. We think well of it and then we go on with our lives. In Jewish religion, to do something ‘in memory of’ is to move into deep memory. That is what happens when we pray. Surface memory is where we mainly live our lives consciously remembering the many significant people and events in our lives. If we create our identity, our meaning, our purpose from that tiny memory, we will almost always be unsatisfied. We are never going to be able to feel deep enough, wonderful enough, big enough, connected enough.

Most of us feel that we are all on our own. In today’s gospel the disciples wanted to send the people out on their own to take care of their own food. Jesus’ response was to create a new understanding of connectedness, of abundance, of ‘enoughness’, of more than ‘enoughness’- as we see in the twelve baskets left over. In taking a little bit of food and feeding everybody with it, Jesus is symbolising his invitation to a universal meal, an invitation into a universal community, friendship and unity. This is an image of the Eucharist: a meal which takes us out of our tiny world where we never feel that there is enough and gives our little lives universal and eternal meaning. The Eucharist seeks to connect our joy and suffering with all the joys and suffering since the beginning of time. That’s what it means to do something in deep memory with God. Our circles of connectedness are ever-widening. Our little tiny lives are connected with something bigger, something that matters, something eternal. Suddenly our ordinary little lives have transcendent and universal meaning. Whether we realise it or not, that is the yearning within each one of us.

To eat of the bread and drink of the cup is to consciously acknowledge our oneness, our connectedness to all that was, is and will be. Every true celebration of Eucharist is a deep memory experience of who we are in Christ, in whom we all live and move and have our being.

Adapted from Richard Rohr

The Summer of ’89

Someone once quipped “If Bishops and Priests went on strike, would anyone notice.” Don’t answer, please!

From many comments such as “It’s alright for you, you only work one day a week!” and “Priesthood? That’s a cushy number. That’s why you never see it advertised at the Job Centre!” I have had my share.

On the 17th of June 2019 I will celebrate 30 years of priesthood. (Not looking for a fanfare and balloons) I have never gone on strike, but I’d like to hope I have been of some relevance to some people over that period.

Reflecting on the years gone by, I thank God for the call to ordained priesthood, for the opportunity to respond to that call (sadly not the case for many others) and for the places, people and plethora of positions the call has put me in. All in all, I have been blessed.

During the ordination rite, the Bishop asks the Superior, “Do you judge him to be worthy?” I read someone once saying that this is the wrong question. It should be “do you judge him to be unworthy?” For Christ calls the weak, the unworthy, the last … as his co-workers and I identify with that. I studied with many people, of both sexes, who would have been better equipped than me for ordained priesthood, but that is not Jesus’ criteria.

Over the 30 years I have made mistakes, I have fallen short, I have been unfaithful, I have let people down, I have let myself down…but I keep trying my best, limited at times as that may be.

However, I have been blessed and encouraged by the priesthood that we all share as Baptised. And that has inspired me to be better. Be it the women in the Base Communities in Brazil rowing for hours to teach other mum’s good child care, be it Hattie Williams in South Side Chicago opening her doors to bring the black and white communities together, be it Mrs. Murphy who gives her £5.00 every week for the missions, be it the many great men and women, who we can all think of, who have brought Christ to others, the catechists, the Eucharist Minsters, the folk who make the coffee after mass, those who visit the sick, collect for the poor, volunteer for this and that… this is the priesthood we all share, and I thank God for the priests (non-ordained) who have enriched my life and encouraged me.

I would like to believe that at our Centre here in Preston, we can create a space for all priesthoods to be welcomed, celebrated, encouraged and empowered. The body of Christ has many parts…but all part of the same!

Have a look at the range of activities on the go and maybe bring something yourself. We all have pieces of the jigsaw and together we can make the picture more complete. After all God didn’t do it alone – the Trinity, that we celebrate reminds us of the perfect community, each one playing different parts…creating, redeeming and empowering.

The late great Norman Walsh used to joke when someone was celebrating a wedding anniversary… “Did you have a minute’s silence?“ On Monday I will take a minute or two to thank God for priestly ministry, mine and others. Please take a minute too, to do the same.

Jim