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Secrets in Stone

 

 

Hagar and Forever Free – two of Edmonia’s works

Edmonia Lewis – a black, Catholic, American sculptor – cut an unusual figure in nineteenth century Rome. Joanna Moorhead seeks to unravel the mystery of this remarkable woman. Article taken from The Tablet 4th July 2020.

Not far from The Tablet’s office in west London, in a Catholic cemetery containing the remains of distinguished figures including Cardinals Wiseman and Manning, writer Max Pemberton and entertainer Danny La Rue, is a grave that until recently was unmarked and known only as plot C350.

Today it has a shiny headstone, and the legacy of the individual whose remains lie beneath is attracting belated but much-deserved accolades from the art world. A distinguished sculptor, who rose from modest roots in New York to become a celebrated figure in Rome, what’s most remarkable of all is that this artist was also female, and black.

Her name was Edmonia Lewis, and as the headstone, erected in 2017 in St Mary’s Cemetery, Kensal Green, reveals, she was born in 1844 and died in 1907. The truth is that even if she was a contemporary artist, the story of her struggle, her indomitable spirit and her success would be extraordinary – because to this day, as the Black Lives Matter protests have made abundantly clear, the world is ranged against people like her.

“Women artists, artists of colour, face the same obstacles today that Edmonia faced,” says her biographer, Albert Henderson, on the phone from Connecticut. “But her talent was her capital. She was an incredibly skilled artist, and she was also determined, single-minded, and unstoppable.” The fact that one of her focuses as an artist was the abolition of slavery only underlines her relevance and resonance in the present moment.

Lewis’ attributes meant she found recognition in her lifetime, especially in Rome where she worked out of a studio off the Piazza Barberini She must have cut an unlikely figure in the city, at a time when it was dominated by white artists. In fact, says Henderson, it was the patronage of several white British Catholics, who encountered her in Rome, that helped launch her success. “I think they related because of their recusant history. They knew what it was like to be a second-class citizen,” he says. Their influence was presumably behind a short news report, which appeared in The Tablet of 10 March 1866, that noted: “Miss Edmonia Lewis, a lady of colour, has taken a studio in Rome, and works as a sculptress.”

Much of Lewis’ story is sadly lost in time – and much of her work, even more unfortunately, is physically lost. The current focus on Black Lives Matter, though, is helping to turn the tide, and Lewis is one of many unsung inspirational figures profiled in the Black History and Culture strand on the Google Arts & Culture platform.

She was born to a mother who was of Chippewa Indian heritage and an African American father, but both her parents died when she was a young child and she went to live with her mother’s family in their tribe. Those years were formative for her art, and perhaps she was also propelled by the Indian name by which she was now known, “Wildfire”. When she was 12, her brother, Sunrise, went to California to become a gold miner, and sent back money to pay for her education in Ohio.

Schooling was to be the making of Lewis, but it also very nearly unseated her: in a move that was almost certainly racially motivated, she was accused of trying to poison her white roommates. She was eventually acquitted, but not before she had been beaten by white vigilantes.

She moved to Boston to study sculpture, and among her first works were busts of abolitionists; it was the sale of one of these, of Robert Gould Shaw, that gave her the funds to buy a one-way ticket on a ship to Europe. She travelled around for a while before settling in Rome, as reported in The Table, having gained the support of established sculptors such as Hiram Powers. Rome was a fashionable place to be a sculptor at the time; as well as its history of sculpting in antiquity, fine white marble was available there, and the skills of Italian stone-cutters.

Being away from the US didn’t diminish Lewis’ interest in her African American and Native American heritage; if anything, it seems to have given her the space to focus on it more. One of her best-known works, now in the Howard University Gallery of Art in Washington, is Forever Free, depicting a man and woman emerging from slavery, shackles held aloft. Another piece, Old Arrow Maker, shows a Native American father instructing his young daughter.

Her relationship with Catholicism, like much in her life, is shrouded in mystery. According to Henderson, she used to say that “the black robes taught us to say our prayers”, which he believes is a reference to the Jesuit missionaries who worked in New York State when she was growing up there. She seems to have been baptised as an adult, although precisely when and where is unclear. “We’ve been to the Vatican archives to see if it happened in Rome, but there’s no record of it there”, says Henderson. More tangible evidence of her faith perhaps is evinced in her biblical works: one of her masterpieces is a statue of Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant from the Book of Genesis who became the world’s first surrogate mother when she gave birth to Abraham’s first son, Ishmael. Hagar was later cast out after Sarah gave birth to her own son, Isaac; in the sculpture, she is a symbol of the courage of an oppressed female. She also created a Moses, copied after Michelangelo, and now lost Adoration of the Magi.

Most of Lewis’ adult life was lived out in Rome, but she made regular journeys back to the US, taking examples of her sculpture with her and encouraging galleries to show them. In 1872 she was in California for an exhibition of her work at the San Francisco Art Association; four years later came important recognition when she was included in the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition. Her piece, The Death of Cleopatra, was an unsentimental portrayal of the Egyptian queen in her final moment. One reviewer called it “the most remarkable piece of sculpture in the American section” of the show. The fact that it was then lost for a century, and discovered in 1988 hidden in a Chicago storage room, stands testament to how deeply art history, a discipline dominated by white men, has ignored the contribution of women, and women of colour in particular. The Death of Cleopatra now stands in the Smithsonian in Washington.

The later years of Lewis’ life are as intriguing as her early times. Exactly when she moved to London, or why, is unknown, but by the census of 1901 she was living in Bloomsbury. She seems to have moved again, to a house on Blythe Road in Hammersmith, and appears to have been a regular parishioner at Our Lady of Victories in Kensington. If she produced any work for that church, though, it was almost certainly lost when the premises were bombed during the Second World War. Today, the only places in Britain where you can see her work are the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, and at Mount Stuart in Scotland, whose owner, the third Marquess of Bute, was one of those long-time British supporters of her work. Lewis died in the Hammersmith infirmary and, says Henderson, she asked for her death notice to be published in The Tablet. “A spinster and sculptor” was how she wanted to be remembered; more than 100 years on, that ambition seems finally to be being realised.

The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis by Harry Henderson and Albert Henderson is available for download on Kindle. For further information, see www.edmonialewis.com

Comfort and Joy

Cate Ryan, Clonmel, Tipperary. wrote this letter to The Irish Times 27.12.19

A chara. – By night he sleeps in doorways and by day he comes here to the train station to play the piano. With his hood up, he sits hunched into himself, but his fingers spill like light across the keys.

And the rush of passersby is startled to a stand still, because he plays the familiar tunes as though his heart beats in his hands.

He’s not here today and the piano is silent. I sit down to it and my fingers stumble through the low and quiet notes of that old carol: “God rest ye merry gentlemen”. But when his hands reach down from behind and rest either side of mine, for a few brief moments we’re joined in the playing of it.

And there it is again, at last – that breathless surge of fresh remembrance that what is felt as holy are simply those acts shared between unguarded hearts.

I leave him then, join the crowd on our journeys home, to music played by a man whithout one. Yet he plays the piano with as fierce a wish as children’s eyes search the sky on Christmas Eve.

He plays as some will clasp their hands in prayer, “Good tidings of comfort and joy”. – Is mise

The editor writes: Reader I am aware this is a Christmas story but we are in a difficult time and in need of Comfort and Joy. May this talented man be blessed and also Cate Ryan for taking the trouble to write in.

What does sin mean to you?

by Fr Michael Commane – taken from The Irish Times Saturday 20th June 2020

Before writing this piece, I asked a number of people what sin meant for them. A journalist colleague said he found some forms of unkindness sinful. Two of my fellow priests said that sin meant missing the target.

What is sin? The concept of sin only makes sense in the context of a relationship with a personal God. Sin is the damaging of the integity of our friendship with God. And that also includes our relationship with other people and the world about us.

St Paul (Romans 5:12-15) tells us that sin existed in the world long before the law was laid down. The prophet Jeremiah (20:10-13) writes that the Lord has delivered the souls of the needy from the hands of evil men. In Matthew (10:26-35) Jesus assures us. “If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my father in heaven”.

Sinner

My sense is Christ is more interested in the sinner than in the sin. Might it be possible that by placing an over-emphasis on law, rules and regulations, we are placing too much emphasis on the sin and moving away from mercy and empathy for the sinner?

I’m reminded of an incident that happened my late mother: when baking a cake on a Good Friday, she absentmindedly tasted some ingredients. She later phoned the local priest to know if she could receive Holy Communion later that day. He said she couldn’t and that it would be sinful if she did. That’s a long time ago. The unfeeling response to a woman trying to live her faith still troubles me. But what does it say about the priest and the theology he had been taught?

I find it more helpful to see sin as falling short of living up to the Christian ideal. Sin is intrinsically linked to putting ourselves first and above everyone, including God.

Most of all it’s important to stress that God in his mercy is always ready to offer forgiveness to the sinner. And that’s far stronger than the most persuasive seductions that come our way.

Remember, Jesus has died on a cross for you and me and the Holy Spirit is among us.

Everything to do with God is surrounded by mystery. That does not prevent us from trying to say something about God, and how we damage our relationship with God.

Breaking Bad

I remember in theology class a lecturer saying that sin was the breaking of a relationship with God. It has stayed with me. Just as our faith is essentially a relationship with God and one another, so too is sin the damaging of that relationship.

‘Breaking Bad’ is said to be one of the best TV drama series. It’s the story of Walter White, a chemistry teacher, who is short of cash. He gets into the drug trade. Over the 62-episode series he moves from being a good person to being evil. It is inevitable the choices he makes will lead to his doom. The series charts how he destroys his relationships with those he loves.I am struck by the fact that it is a tale about falling from grace. White loses out on living a good or worthwhile life.

He totally relies on his own intelligence and cunning. He causes untold damage to himself and those close to him.

Isn’t that exactly what sin is, a falling away from the grace that God offers us, the damaging of our relationship with God and others?

When St Dominic founded the Dominican Order in the 13th century he insisted that the constitutions of the Order were not binding under sin.

An over-emphasis on sin is not at all the message of the Gospel.

Jesuit priest, Alfred Delp, who was murdered by the German authorities in January 1945, wrote in prison: “We believe more in our own unworthiness than in the creative impulse of God.

As an appendix to this article I found the following in The Bible Alive on 2nd July 2020 which might be of help to someone other than me:

Forgiveness is the human being’s deepest need. Fr Ronald Rolheiser spoke to many hearts when he wrote:

‘If the Catholicism that I was raised in had a fault, and it did, it was precisely that it did not allow for mistakes. It demanded that you get it right the first time….

If you made a mistake, you lived with it and, like the rich young man, were doomed to be sad, at least for the rest of your life…I have seen that mark on all kinds of people: divorcees, ex-priests, ex-religious, people who have had children outside of marriage, parents who have made serious mistakes with their children, and countless others who have made serious mistakes. There is too little around to help them. We need a theology of brokenness..We need a theology that tells us that mistakes are not forever, that they are not even for a life-time, that time and grace wash clean, that nothing is irrevocable. Finally, we need a theology which teaches us that God loves us as sinners and that the task of Christianity is not to teach us how to live, but how to live again, and again, and again.’

Editor’s comment: there is hope for us all.

The bread of the Eucharist for the life of the world

The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Sadly, our churches are still closed but the good news is that they will soon be open again. Have you shared in the Mass streamed on television or radio? Are you looking forward to returning? Did you miss receiving the Lord in Holy Communion? Did this enforced absence make you ask yourself what the Eucharist really means to you?

Today’s Gospel is taken from John, Chapter 6 which is all about bread, three kinds of bread in fact. With the first bread Jesus fed a multitude through the miraculous multiplication of five loaves and two fish.

The following day he exhorted the people to consider the miracle of the loaves as a sign to believe in him as the bread to satisfy the hungers of the spirit: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger; whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

To believe in Jesus means a commitment to follow his ideals and teaching…as the way, the truth and the life. People who knew Jesus from childhood found it hard to make this commitment.

After bread for the body and bread of Faith, Jesus raised their minds to the third bread. He spoke in the future tense as this bread had not yet been given: “The bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” It is no surprise that the people were deeply puzzled by this. So, Jesus rephrased his promise in six further statements. Seven statements. Seven is always the divine number in John’s Gospel. People were still puzzled but Jesus explained that they would understand this future bread in the light of the resurrection: “What if you should see the son of man ascend to where he was before.” It is the Risen Lord whom we meet in the Eucharist.

On the night before he died, at the Last Supper, he gave the blessed bread to the disciples, saying: “This is my body, given up for you.” And giving them the cup of wine, he said, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.”

Banquet

For some 30 years the Son of God was on earth in a human body of flesh and blood. Now he is embodied in the consecrated bread and wine. Prepare yourself for returning to the banquet of the Eucharist by pondering on the words of Jesus.

I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.

The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.

Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him/her.

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in them.

As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father so whoever eats me will draw life from me.

“The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ” (1 Cor.10:16).

Taken from The Irish Catholic June 11, 2020 – The Sunday Gospel by Fr Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.

Botswana’s Bishop Nubuasah SVD mourns George Floyd, a friend.

Botswana’s Diocese of Gaborone Bishop, Frank Nubuasah, SVD, has written an emotional farewell letter to George Perry Floyd Jr., whom he met in the 1990s. George was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

Bishop Frank Nubuasah met and became friends with George Floyd and his family when the Bishop was in the United States in the 1990s. The Ghanaian-born Bishop says he remembers and cherishes George’s “infectious smile. “

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City

The gentle giant (14 October 1973 – 25 May 2020)

George Floyd, whom friends called, Perry, was an unarmed African American man whose death has ignited protests across the United States and beyond. Demonstrators have denounced systematic racism in the United States and want white policemen to stop killing black people -especially black men.

George Floyd was killed during an arrest. Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on George’s neck for close to nine minutes while George begged for his life: “I can’t breathe,” George pleaded. By then, he had already been handcuffed and was face down on the street. At the same time, two other police officers restrained George. A fourth officer prevented members of the public from intervening.

We got chatting and became friends says Bishop Nubuasah

Gaborone Diocese’s Bishop Frank Nubuasah, SVD, says he met George Floyd at a baseball game in Three Rivers Stadium of Pittsburgh in the United States. “We got to chatting and become friends,” says Bishop Nabuasah in the letter addressed directly to George Floyd. The then Father Nubuasah, says George was barely 20 when they met.

Below is Bishop Frank Nubuasah’s letter

Dear Mr. George Floyd,

Good day to you.

I have no idea what time it is in your part of God’s kingdom. But I do remember vividly our first meeting. It was at a baseball game. You came wearing blue jeans, T-shirt, a cap on, holding a huge paper cup filled with Coke in one hand and a bag of popcorn in the other. We were seated; you then joined us. That was in Pittsburgh many years ago. You were still a youngster, barely 20, on a trip. We got to chatting and become friends.

Under the circumstances this will be my last communication with you in this “land of the living” that rejected your right to live. How can I forget you George? Your distinctive features are a large nose and thick lips; very African traits. I know, you always reminded me that you are not African but African-American. Both backgrounds were important for you and you did not want to lose any. You were standing solidly with both feet in two traditions. Between these feet of yours was a lot of water called the Atlantic Ocean. You never got to cross it!

One of the things I cherish most about you was your very infectious smile. It was as if the coronavirus learnt from you how to infect people. Your heart was very big and accommodated people. It was always, okay with you to reach out to one more person. Yes, you would run a mile for anyone. Run you did for me on a number of occasions, but that is a story I will tell some other time.

My heart is heavy as I sit in my prayer corner to write you this missive knowing well that others will read it but you will not. We humans through a representative of ours made sure that your eyes were closed and would not open again. That is however not true, your eyes will remain forever seeing the fire you started at death. The revolution that your sacrificial death inspired and the new movements and alliances against racism, classism and discrimination are growing. You lit a fire that is burning for peace and change. So, my friend, when you hear the chant, “yes, we can” know that we are doing it in your name and for you. Gone, but very much here! On the mother continent we would call you, the living dead.

I recall the vacation I spent with you and your folks. Quincy was a baby boy at the time. It was a good escape from my books. What great BBQ’s we enjoyed in the summer evenings. I thought we in Southern Africa eat a lot of meat, but boy, you love your rare stake with blood on it.

You will remember that my preference was well done. You took me to watch a real football game not the American version but real football, the gentle game. Oh, yes, you were bored to the bone. You wanted your version of the game. I remember trying to educate you that the world governing body is called FIFA and not FISA when you refer to football as soccer. All that is water that has gone down under bridge near the three rivers stadium where we first met.

At my invitation, you were planning to visit the motherland and touch base with your roots. I had suggested that you attend the Pan African cultural festival known as PANAFEST in Ghana and then come over to beautiful Botswana to visit with me. I was going to take you see wildlife in their natural habitat, not a zoo. You were to visit a cattle post and a Masimo (ploughing field) and enjoy our coveted delicacy of pounded meat, Seswaa. I guess you are not coming in the flesh, so my plans would have to be put on ice.

With global warming, maybe the ice would melt and I can revisit the plans. Who knows Quincy might make it to see the stunning beauty of a lady that puts me on her laps day and night to feed and nourish me. She caresses me and supports me. This beautiful lady Botswana is home to great men and women. How can you miss this visit we had planned so long ago? My heart is aching badly. My writing you this letter is a therapeutic coping mechanism I learnt years ago when we met in Pittsburgh. Your life was cut shot, my friend.

You set another record by dying in the public view not in an accident. The event was captured on tape for posterity. Do you realize that you are a great man? Oh, how I love cell phones! No one can escape a crime with impunity because documentary evidence will circulate on social media. The criminal justice system might fail you but the popular opinion will know the truth.

The latest poll says two thirds of your country people are supporting the revolution you started at death. Now that you have seen the “janitors of Shadowland’ (Job 38; 17) you have answered your call even if prematurely. I guess the folks in heaven were expecting you. Farewell my younger brother from another mother in America. We shall meet again.

Right now, I am angry because I am human and never thought humans can stoop so low. A huge welcome awaits you in the Father’s house and I hope Coke and popcorn will be there too. You just have one more task to perform. It is to prepare to welcome the notorious four who killed you into heaven when their time does come and show ‘em round the jolly place we call heaven. She said “when they go low, we go high.” (Michelle Obama) I will miss you George. You can now breathe eternally the breath of love. Rest in Peace!

Bishop Frank Nubuasah SVD

Gaborone Botswana

04 June, 2020

Novena to the Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart Novena 2020

By David Stewart SJ

Thursday 11th June to Friday 19th June 2020

How to Pray This Novena

Set aside about 10 minutes each day. Take your time over the words you read. Linger over a word or a phrase. Think about its meaning. Share your feelings with Jesus, and wait quietly to see what comes into your mind and heart. Blessed John Sullivan tells us that God is delighted to see us, even if we don’t know what to say. God has our best interests at heart.

Beginning of each day

Prayer Moment – Let the Spirit of God lead you to a place of interior stillness and then allow yourself to become aware of God’s gaze on you, full of love and hope for you. That gaze is sustaining and life-giving. Ask, in your heart, for a deepening, interior awareness of how you depend on God for your existence.

Novena prayer

Lord Jesus, you have said, ‘Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you’. I come to you in faith and trust, in love and hope. Let me know your closeness to me, and your care for me and all who are dear to me.

My intention for this Novena is dear to me, and I know that what is important to me is important to you. Hear my prayer (mention your intention); grant what I ask, and may I always trust that in all that happens in life, you will be close to me as my friend, guide and saviour. And so, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

Day 1 Thursday 11th June

God sustains my life

Scriptural Moment:

Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth,

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

mortals that you care for them?

Moment for Reflection: Stay with the idea of your dignity as a child of God for as much time as you can manage today. Thank God for this. Notice what moves in your heart and your soul as you ponder these things.

The Desire: That I may know my utter dependency on God for my being and that I may wonder at the miracle of my own personal existence.

End with the Novena Prayer

Day 2 Friday 12th June

God’s faithfulness to me

Scriptural Moment:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul

He leads me in the right paths for his name’s sake (Psalm 23)

Moment for Reflection: Note any new awareness, or repetition of an awareness you already have, of God’s care for you. What was happening in your own personal life when this inner knowledge became real for you?  If, at this moment, you feel a deepening of that awareness, however little, stay with it.

The Desire: That I may know a deep confidence in God’s caring for me, as I continue to wonder at my own personal existence.

End with the Novena Prayer

Day 3 Saturday 13th June

God gives Godself to me, to us…

Scriptural Moment:

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ (John 1:35-39)

Moment for Reflection: Gently think about ways in which you’ve sensed God’s call and indeed God’s challenge to you. Ask to know that more deeply, more authentically; ask, too, for the grace to respond generously, that you may not be deaf to his call. Stay with whatever emerges in your reflection as long as you can; offer your desires to the Heart of Christ and, if a conversation with Christ grows out of your prayer, let it.

The Desire: That I may be more aware of how God calls me and of my freedom to respond.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 4: Sunday 14th June

Resistance to God’s call

Scriptural moment:

Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ (John 8:1-11)

Moment for reflection: Become as honest as you can be about your selfishness, too much self-regard, self-righteousness and not enough humility, not enough openness to other people and their goodness. In your prayer, speak to Jesus about these things; let him respond to you with mercy and compassion.

The Desire: Asking for a profound, peaceful, personal sorrow for any infidelity to God’s call.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 5: Monday 15th June

God’s attitude towards us

Scriptural Moment:

He began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ (Mark 10:46-52)

Moment for Reflection: Have you ever thought of yourself as a ‘loved sinner?’ Or have you felt more a condemned sinner, wedged irretrievably in the consequences of sins, hopelessly caught up in your own sinfulness and that of the world? Our honesty and humility in prayer can help us to realise that we are not trapped and that it’s God’s desire to forgiven, not to condemn. Speak, in your heart, to God about how much you want to know that fact interiorly. St Ignatius suggests, in a wonderful passage of the Spiritual Exercises, that I might ask for the grace to express a ‘heartfelt cry of wonder’ at the forgiveness and mercy that has been given to me.

The Desire: A joyful awareness that I am a loved sinner, a heartfelt knowledge of God’s compassion.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 6: Tuesday 16th June

Knowing the person of Jesus

Scriptural Moment:

He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Luke 4:17-19)

Moment for Reflection: Take a few moments to think about how Jesus described his mission. He has something more than just an impressive display to offer. His care was for those in need and this led to the rejection he experienced, not least in his own hometown, but everywhere.

The Desire: That I may know Jesus, become human for me, more intimately, love him more intensely and follow him more closely.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 7: Wednesday 17th June

Jesus moves towards his cross

Scriptural Moment:

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.  (Luke 23:26)

Moment for Reflection: Later in the passion account, Jesus was clearly seen and heard to forgive, from the very cross, moments before his death by execution. His physical agony would have been intense. Yet he could, at that moment, still speak of mercy. We can ask for an interior knowledge of what he was going through. We can ponder, also the ways in which his heart will continue to go through agonies today. Reflect, then, on where he is crucified in our times, in the innocent, poor and weak, for whom he came into our history.

The Desire: That I may feel sorrow with Christ sorrowful, anguish with Christ in anguish, and that the reality of the mercy of God might reveal itself to me in the Passion of Jesus.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 8: Thursday 18th June

Jesus as he contuse to his cross

Scriptural moment:

These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’ (John 19:36-37)

Moment for reflection: One of the soldiers, we hear, pierced the side of Jesus with his lance, penetrating to his heart, and out of his pierced side flowed blood and water. There is a tradition in the Church of thinking of this outpouring, from the Heart of Christ, as a fountain of sacramental life. We can ask, also his mother Mary, one of the very few who remained close to the cross when most of the others fled, to share with us what was in her heart at this moment, the sword that pieced her heart.

The Desire: That I may know Jesus, become human for me, more intimately, love him more intensely and follow him more closely. To feel sorrow and anguish with him.

End with the Novena Prayer

Day 9: Friday 19th June

Risen Christ, risen Christian!

Scriptural Moment:

We can ponder any of the appearances of the risen Christ in this time, perhaps particularly the Emmaus Road encounter (Luke 24:13-35) and how, for the two former disciples trudging wearily homewards, their great adventure apparently having failed, something unmistakably marvellous happened in their hearts. This sudden moment of consolation, not of their own doing, changed everything for them. Look also at the next passage, Luke 24:36-43 when he offers peace to his frightened friends.

Moment for Reflection: We cannot imagine what the actual resurrection was like because it is too much for us, but what we can imagine is how it must have been for those dejected followers who, after the events of Calvary, had thought everything was over. Think of the way Jesus appeared to the disciples many times. Imagine the Risen Christ offering his peace to the world and to you. Talk to him; tell him what you feel you need.

The Desire: To experience, interiorly and deeply joy with Christ risen, the joy he wants to share with his friends as he comes back to them, having overcome all darkness, all sin.

End with the Novena Prayer

Come Holy Spirit

As we celebrate this feast-day, there’s something we need to grasp and take hold of, because this is what the Church has taught since the beginning: through the grace of the liturgy it is as though what happened in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago is repeated again on this holy feast-day. The same Holy Spirit who came down upon the disciples huddled together in the Upper Room descends on us too.

Remind yourself that the Holy Spirit is with you. When the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, he instilled in the Church a dynamism and power which since then has been the principal agent behind all its fruitful work and mission in the world. Our plea to our readers today is to let the Holy Spirit come into your lives: invite him, welcome him and pray to him.

‘Whenever the Spirit intervenes, he leaves people astonished; he brings about events of amazing newness; he radically changes persons and history. Faith is not abstract talk, nor vague religious sentiment, but new life in Christ instilled by the Holy Spirit. Christ says to each of us: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). He is counting on every one of you, and so is the Church. “Lo,” the Lord promises, “I am with you always to the close of the age” (Matt, 28:20). I am with you. Amen!’ (Pope St John Paul II)

Taken from Bible Alive for Sunday 31st May – Pentecost. www.alivepublishing.co.uk

Readers I encourage you to also open Robert Barron YouTube and you will find a most remarkable treasure of teaching.

Dominican friar returns to medical frontline

Staff reporter in The Irish Catholic, May 7, 2020

While many priests and religious are in the frontline comforting and consoling those suffering from coronavirus and their loved ones, an Irish Dominican friar who is a trained doctor is back treating patients with Covid-19.

Brother Chris Gault OP, who has been studying for the priesthood with the Dominicans, has returned to his native Belfast and donned surgican scrubs to be part of the fight against the virus in the Mater Hospital where he was once a junior doctor.

Having graduated from Queen’s University in 2013, and then completed foundation training, the 30-year-old had left this life behind when he decided to answer a call to enter the priesthood.

“I talked to my superiors and they were happy and encouraging,” he said.

“I just volunteered. The trust and the health service is undergoing a lot of change. They are adapting to a lot of change in these current circumstances.

“I never wavered and once the backing came, I was happy to go for it,” he said.

Courier-turned-Volunteer

by Jade Wilson in The Irish Times Monday 4th May 2020

Oscar Little (21) lost his job as a courier last month, but as a volunteer he is now on his bike six days a week making deliveries for the Capuchin Day Centre to families who are in need.

On a typical Saturday afternoon, he packed his cargo bike full of food parcels and take-a-way dinners to deliver to several hostels for the homeless in Dublin city centre before heading to Tallaght to deliver more meals to families isolating in their homes.

Despite losing his job, the music student with the British and Irish Modern Music Institute has refused any payment from the centre.

“They asked me to invoice them but I don’t want to. The centre is a charity. If I take their money, am I taking food out of someone’s mouth? They don’t have unlimited money and they’re doing twice the amount of work they normally do. There’s a lot more presssure on the centre now,” he said.

At the start of the outbreak, the charity was handing out about 650 dinner packages a day, but in recent weeks that number has grown to 870, with lots of people who had never used the service before now getting in touch, according to manager Alan Bailey.

“We have a lot of new people who’ve lost their jobs and don’t know what to do or where to go. These are people who were totally self-sufficient and, all of a sudden, the rope has been pulled from under them,” Mr Bailey said.

“It’s a huge pressure on the centre because we’ve split the staff in two to work opposite days. Half work the first three days and the other half work the latter half of the week, because we’re afraid of staff getting sick with the virus.”

Describing Mr Little as “a vital part of our service”, Mr Bailey added: “He’s a quiet, unassuming chap and very good to the people he’s dealing with. People have told me they’s have no money for cigarettes and he’s buying cigarettes for them. Gestures like that mean so much to people.”

Really happy

Mr Little said: “It’s really fulfilling work. Everyone is friendly and very appreciative.” He recalled delivering Easter eggs to a Roma family in Tallaght last month. “The kids got really excited…over something as small as an Easter egg. One of the parents let the kids out front to get them from me and they ran back into the houses jumping around, really happy.”

The deliveries are “really helping” and making things “much easier” for families who are isolating in their rooms, according to the receptionist at Maple Hotel on Gardiner Street, who takes the meals from Mr Little and leaves them outside the bedrooms of residents who are sick and unable to leave to cook or shop.

Mr Little’s mother, Angy, is a doctor at the Capuchin Day Centre – “she kind of roped me into doing this” – while his father, George, works in a hospital A&E department.

“If I can help out in any way when this is over, I will stay involved with the centre,” the student added. “When I finish my music degree, I want to do medicine at some point. I like helping people and being able to do things for people that they can’t do for themselves. Maybe it runs in the family.”

Well done Oscar and well done Jade and well done all those working in the Capuchin Centre

The Look of Jesus

In Luke’s Gospel we read: Peter said, “Man I do not know what you are talking about”. At that moment, while he was still speaking, a cock crew; and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter…and Peter went outside and wept bitterly.

“I had a fairly good relationship with the Lord, I would ask him for things, converse with him, praise him, thank him. But always I had this uncomfortable feeling that he wanted me to look into his eyes, and I would not. I would talk, but look away when I sensed he was looking at me. I always looked away, and I knew why. I was afraid. I thought I should find there an accusation of some unrepented sin. I thought I should find a demand there…there would be something he wanted from me. One day, I finally summoned up the courage and looked! There was no accusation. There was no demand. The eyes just said, ‘I love you’. I looked searchingly. Still the only message was, ‘I love you’.

(And I walked out, and like Peter…I wept.”

Look of love: Jesus’ gaze will change your life, Pope Francis says – extracts from Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

The gaze of Jesus can change a person’s life just like it did with St Peter, Pope Francis said.

“He always looks at us with love. He asks us something, he forgives us and he gives us a mission,” the pope said during an early morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The Pope said he was struck by the exchange of gazes in John 21:15-19, which includes Jesus, after the resurrection, asking Peter three times if he loves him.

When Jesus first met his apostle, “Jesus fixed his gaze upon him and said, “You are Simon, son of John; you will be called Peter”, the Pope said. “That was the first gaze, the gaze of mission” and Peter responded enthusiastically.

Then, after Jesus had been arrested and Peter denied Jesus three times, he feels the gaze of Jesus again and “weeps bitterly,” the Pope said.

“The enthusiasm of following the Lord was turned into tears because he had sinned, he had denied Jesus,” the Pope said. “That gaze changed Peter’s heart more than the first did. The first changed his name and vocation, but the second was a gaze that changed his heart; it was a conversion to love.”

The third gaze is recounted, the Pope said, when Jesus looks at Peter, asks him if he loves him and tells him to feed his sheep.

The third gaze, he said, confirms Peter’s mission but also asks Peter to confirm his love.

The Gospel recounts more of the conversation, with Jesus warning Peter that his future will not be easy and that, in fact, he also will suffer and die.

Ask yourself, “how is Jesus gazing upon me? With a call? With forgiveness? With a mission?” the Pope said.

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The Look of Jesus recounted above was on a piece of paper I treasure and every Good Friday I look at it and meditate on it. This year it spoke to me in a special way. At this time in the middle of lock down we sit a bit more and reflect on our lives what we have done and what we should not have done and what we have not done and should have done etc and often the people have died or moved away and something disturb us. Imagine now that you meet that person again and you have these same feelings that Peter had when he met Jesus after the resurrection. Imagine that you are afraid and the person you harmed is walking towards you and you are afraid to look into that person’s eyes. Imagine that when you do look, that person looks at you with only love. Imagine that the love they have for you is much much greater than the harm you might have done them. This is the meaning of resurrection. Not staying in the tomb with our fears but coming out into the light and receiving love.