Tag Archive: christianity


All the Saints

AMDG

All-SaintsToday’s celebration of all the Saints is a very special one for the church.  All Saints day grew out of a need in the early church to remember all the martyrs that couldn’t fit into the emerging  liturgical calendar.  Initially every martyr (saint) was given their own feast day – but in the first three hundred years of the church, so many were killed by Roman emperors (about 100,000 according to some scholars)  - that they couldn’t fit them in the emerging liturgical calendar – hence the birth of all saints day.    The status of Christianity changed dramatically during the reign of Emperor Constantine.  He was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christian, and agreed on the Edict of Milan, which stressed religious tolerance.  His mother St Helena is credited with discovering the true cross of Christ. Christianity went from being a sect, heavily persecuted and underground, to becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire.  A bit further down the line Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  This was a remarkable moment  where the ancient temple to all the gods of ancient Rome became a Christian church dedicated to all the saints of the early church.  Pope  Gregory IV (827-844) extended this celebration to the entire Church and gave the feast universal status – So for Catholics it is called a Holy Day of Obligation (i.e. they must go to mass) . Such important feast days have their own vigil – hence Halloween – the evening of all Hallows.  Wearing costumes / jack-o-laterns etc / partys (fiestas) can all be traced back to the start of this three-day holiday.

1970405592_0e3f9698f0There are two paths to ‘sainthood’ in the Catholic Church.  One is to be a martyr –  or to be killed distinctly out of hatred for the faith (“odium fidei”), the other is to live a life of heroic virtue.  The second process usually requires independent proof of miracles as a result of someone praying for your intercession.  The pictures on either side of the blog today come from a marvellous set of tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Angels in  Los Angles.    THe tapestries are called the communion of Saints consisting  of females and males of all ages, races, occupations and vocations the world over. Saints from the Renaissance are intermingled with people from the 1st century and the 20th century. The artist – John Nava -  combined digital imaging and “Old Master” methods in creating the saints for the tapestries. He constructed figures from multiple studies, combined drawn and painted elements, had costumes made when needed and even drafted family members to serve as models on occasion. He wanted the figures to look like people we know now, and did not use a highly stylized form to depict the saints. Nava’s desire is that people identify and see that “a saint could look like me.”

Communion-of-Saints-tapestry-300x192

 

You can see these marvelous tapestries in more detail by clink on this link 
 

 

AMDG PakistanIt’s reading week here in Manchester and one of our students ‘Eric’ has been sweeping up leaves for us after the storm.  Eric arrived in Manchester from Pakistan 4 years ago – he is a very hard worker.  It was raining heavily this morning so I told him to come in out of the rain and have a cup of tea with me.  Whilst brewing up Eric showed me some photos of on his phone that were shocking.  They were of his house being burnt down 6 months ago in Pakistan.  I have known him for months now and this is the first time he has talked about it. The riots started when one Muslim resident had accused another Christian resident of blasphemy against Muhammad after the two had engaged in a dispute. The police arrested the Christian accused of blasphemy on Friday, and the mob action took place the next day.  Eric told me that they would remove and burn the blessed sacrament first before burning down the church. Joseph Colony Badami Bagh Lahore Pakistan The Independent

This picture on the right is of the burning of all the  church objects .  He talked very calmly about it – the house was worth about £70,000 and was going to be Eric’s inheritance.  According to the Pakistani government  178 houses, 18 shops, and 2 churches were damaged during the riots. Eric says his friends and family reckon the number of homes destroyed is at least 350, or about twice the size of the government estimate and that the entire operation was very well planned and deliberate, not a case of a peaceful demonstration getting out of hand. That the police told residents in the Colony the previous day (Friday) that they should leave the area. This clearly indicates that the government was aware of the planned mob action, and wanted to minimize the loss of life. The St. Joseph Colony is located on land near a number of industrial sites including steel and iron-making plants. It is well-known that these industries would like more land to expand their operations, and many residents believe that is what was behind the clearance.

416bLFOkUuLEric asked me to tell this story on my blog – this all happened 6 months ago – what I want to know is why the BBC is not interested in reporting this? Because it’s an uncomfortable truth for the Liberal Elite.   John L Allen, the excellent American commentator,  has an interesting take on this – he wrote - Stoked by historical images of the Crusades and the Inquisition, and even by current perceptions of the wealth and power of church leaders and institutions, it’s tough for Western observers to wrap their minds around the fact that in a growing number of global hotspots, Christians today are the defenseless oppressed, not the arrogant oppressors.  His new book is coming out soon – already available on Kindle – and it is worth getting, it is called (left)  The Global War on Christians.

Heroic Faith (2)

AMDG

Walter-Ciszek-SJFather Walter Ciszek is an American Jesuit who spent 23 years as a priest in Soviet prisons and doing hard labour in Siberia, from  1940-1963. His time included 5 years in the infamous Lubyanka prison in Moscow, and 15 years in a Siberia mainly working in and around the town of Norilsk.  He has written a mesmerising account of those years which has been recently republished by Ignatius Press, it is called ‘With God in Russia’.

Reading the book is a testament to an incredibly tough guy – who also seemed to be blessed with a deep faith and outstanding pastoral skills.  His survival was a miracle in itself – enduring long periods of isolation and interrogation in Moscow.  Then the harrowing stories of him being transported to Siberia after being sentenced as a ‘Vatican Spy’ to 15 years hard-labour.  The conditions which he endured as they left Moscow which was under prolonged attack by the Germans.

With God in RussiaThe account is absorbing and well worth reading, told with clarity, without sentimentality, at times so crisply that it catches the breath – the terrible hardship and cruelty expressed in a couple of sentences.  Highlights for me include –

  • His faith in God’s providence that helped him beyond the limits of physical endurance, with never any hint of feeling sorry for himself (maybe twice in the whole book did he momentarily succumb to despair)
  • How when in solitary confinement – for months on end – he would order his day around the ‘ordo’ he remembered in the novitiate – from his Jesuit training, to keep him from going mad.
  • How his fellow prisoners, even the violent thieves, were keen to protect him as a priest in a savage world of survival.  How well organised he and the other priests became – and the remarkable ministry they were able to give in secret – sacramental, but also giving retreats!
  • His constant and varied scrapes with Death – Physical Torture, beaten and being injected with chemicals by KGB, Explosions in Coal Mines, Being fired on by Russian Soldiers during a prison revolt, Immersion in Freezing Rivers when logging, Surviving Scurvy from inadequate prison rations, Acute Food Poisoning, prolonged periods of starvation, Constant exposure to arctic conditions in inadequate clothing, Fumigation on two week barge journey etc etc!
  • The risks prisoners would take, even unto death, to hear Mass or go to confession – their courage of practising their faith in the face of brutal repression
  • And finally how he celebrated Easter and Christmas both in captivity and then when he was released on a limited permit.  When he was freed, he celebrated an Easter Vigil that finished at 3am – although communion was distributed from then until after 9am so big were the crowds. Right under the noses of the KGB.  It was such a success – with so much joy – with so great numbers greeting each other  ‘ Christ is Risen’ – ‘He is risen in indeed’ that he was forcefully deported to another town and banned from religious activities!

 

Heroic Faith (1)

AMDG

$T2eC16RHJIIE9qTYKDQ4BRo1n+7-z!~~60_35Whilst I was on my retreat last week, I was able to do some spiritual reading.  I was inspired by a book called ‘The Flying Bishop’  Fifty Years in the Canadian Far North, by Gabriel Breynat OMI.  It documents how the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Sisters of Charity (Grey Sisters) did heroic work in Canada and Alaska at the turn of the century.  The author, pictured right, was called the Little praying man by the First Nations when he arrived in 1892 at the St Bernard Mission in Athabasca – 10 years later he was named Bishop at the age of 35 – and served as a bishop for 42 years.  He saw the mission grow north of the Arctic Circle,  establishing churches, Schools, Hospitals, Farms, Harbours even Coal Mines.

With such a huge mission territory and such harsh conditions the work that they undertook was incredible.  Originally visiting various communities entailed sleeping out on the ice, occasionally building igloos, surviving hurricanes, Ice Drifts, boats being crushed by Ice flows, having to eat their own dogs to survive, frostbite (losing toes), Bear attacks, Plane crashes, 3 month long winter and twilight, fishing under ice flows, hunting caribou (with migrations of 3  million of them at a time).  It is gripping reading. $T2eC16h,!ysE9sy0kzGKBQuDq7vLPw~~60_35The Travel was rigorous – but as the ice began to break up travel by canoe and boat became possible. mission boat evolved  went from 20hp to 120hp, finally they were able to buy a mission plane. This lead to him being known as the Flying Bishop – but the plane made possible a visit in 9 hours of various mission stations what would have taken him 9 weeks in his early days.  

Pope Pius XI took special interest in the mission – the first book he had read as a boy was an account for the quest of the north west passage.  The Pope was especially interested in the most remote and northerly mission, the mission of Christ the King in the Minto Inlet, on Victoria Island.  004272On occasional visits to him in Rome, the bishop would always have an audience with the Pope who was entranced and gripped with his updates. He presented a chalice to be used on this mission.  A Papal delegate visited many years later and reported ‘The Fathers dwelling was a big tent of tough canvas, about 15 feet by 20 feet and served as a chapel, presbytery, kitchen, bedroom – in one corner, behind an Indian curtain, was a little altar, surmounted by a poor tabernacle arranged like an ammunition box. IN the middle was a rich chalice presented by Pius XI and used by himself .  It was engraved Pius XI, Christus Vicarius, Christi praeconibus (Pius XI, Vicar of Christ to the Heralds of Christ)’

The missions had it own martyrs - The killing of Fr Le Roux and Fr Rouviere by Sinnisiak and Uluksak (two Inuit) near Bear Lake. Also the drowning of another priest who misjudged the thickness of the ice as he was trekking to another mission station.  It is inspiring and moving to hear about the dedication of these men and the sisters who were helping them – but the last word is for the one of the Inuit leaders who addressed the pope’s delegate in these words.

You the envoy of the Very Great Man of Prayer, have come from far away to see us.  Even though we live at such a distance, as though hidden in a wood, and even though we may seem, like Cain of old, to flee from the presence of the Holy Spirit, yet the men of prayer have sought us out: they are great hunters.  For a long time they pursued us, as though hunting, before they could catch us in the lasso of their prayer. It is nearly twice a thousand winters since the birth of Jesus.  At last the men of prayer have reached us: thanks to the Great Spirit we should say. You will tell the Very Great Man of Prayer that we venerate him most respectfully and love him with all our hearts; we thank him for having sent you here to see us.

.

 

l_arche_logo_with_titleExciting news from Manchester is that L’arche are opening a new community in Manchester.  The leader of the group, Kevin Coogan, came and gave a fascinating and engaging talk about his experience with L’arche and his passion for living with adults with learning disabilities.  He explained how L’arche, set up by the Canadian Catholic Jean Vanier, had pioneered the model of ‘care in the community’ in the 50’s and 60’s when those with serious mental or physical disability had been confined to large institutions and kept out of sight and mind.

He was so honest and open about the challenges of living with people who had often been abandoned at birth, confined to institutions which may have provided a safe but often not a caring environment.  So the psychological damage of  this experience created another level of difficulties. The power of L’arche is that these people become friends.  And it was fascinating to me to hear how an emotional co-dependence can actually be healing rather than destructive or limiting.  The Community is being part funded by the local authority as they are providing a quality of care for vulnerable adults that is unlikely to be matched. But that relationship has a very interesting tension – for instance where do you draw the lines between a true life-giving healing relationship and safe professional distance.

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Kevin Coogan and his brother Steve raising money for L’arche

A fascinating example Kevin gave was his experience of going on holiday with his wife and kids and bringing two community members with them.  From a faith perspective this is a wonderful and inclusive act of generosity, an unforgettable experience that is priceless.  As a priest I am often grateful for the hospitality of being received into families whether for dinner or a brief break.  However from the cold hard gaze of the local authority – often the funding agency – it would be tempting to be cynical and say, this is a sneaky way of subsidising a family holiday.  Of course this is open to abuse, but when you see the compassion and the generosity with which they are received into the family environment you have to applaud the vision behind this, and bemoan the short-sightedness of the limited vision that comes from a cynical administrative approach.  It was a meeting that has left me much to ponder!

 

Irresistible

 

AMDG

Sometimes being snowed-in may save your life

 Today we remember St Jean Vianney – the famous ‘Cure of Ars’.  I was  researching a bit about him yesterday and found a fascinating story.  Born into revolutionary France, when the faith was outlawed, Vianney as a young boy would travel miles to mass with his family to remote farmhouses.  The windows would be covered in cloth, to hide the shine of candlelight. Impressed by the courage of the priests who were risking their lives and the guillotine to celebrate mass, the seeds of a vocation were planted.  Incredibly as a young man, Vianney was press-ganged into Napoleons army to fight the Spanish.  On a forced march to the Spanish border he managed to slip away and was stranded in the mountain village of Les Noes.  The deep snows of a winter stranded him and kept him safe from the zealous gendarmes who were searching for deserters.  During the the long winter he set up a rudimentary school for the children.  He was ordained and his holiness led to the radical spiritual transformation of the community of Ars and its surroundings.  His fame spread far and wide, and soon over 20,000 people a year would travel to Ars on a pilgrimage, and to make their confessions to him, and these was the days before Easy Jet!  In the summer he could spend up to 16hrs in the confessional.

No wonder he is the patron saint of Parish Priests.  What is striking about his story is  the growth of his vocation in the most hostile circumstances, with so many obstacles put up against him.  Echoed perfectly in today’s readings of the Prophet Jeremiah being delivered from execution, and the Gospel of John the Baptist beheading by King Herod. Kings, Emperors, Revolutions – no matter how powerful  they seem, Gods will, sometimes working imperceptibly, will always find a way.   The most powerful force in the world – even greater that the  Higgs Boson or the magnificent  Jessica Ennis.  With an open heart the will of God is irresistible. 

 

AMDG

English: View to Eigg. from Sleat, Isle of Sky...

The Island of Eigg is part of the Inner Hebrides

There is an archetypal story of the flower or plant that is very rare but exceedingly beautiful, or has mystical healing powers. In order to pluck this treasure you have travel to a remote spot, a high mountain perhaps or a lost island to locate it. The Church of St Donan on the Isle of Eigg feels like the ecclesial equivalent of that magical flower or plant. The Isle of Eigg has a population of 88, mostly nominal Catholics and the parish is served here from Arisaig, which means weather permitting (it’s a one hour boat ride) the get mass once a month. So two of us set out yesterday not knowing what to expect. What we found was truly a rare flower, overlooking the stunning Bay of Laig. There has been no resident priest on Eigg since the fifties, so a sporadic service from nearby mainland parishes probably accounts for the small active congregation – but as is often the case it is quality not quantity. I was very inspired by their commitment and their plans.

When you walk into the church you are hit by the delightful smell of the pine floor. The Church clean and recently renovated is beautiful. Such work is not cheap however, on enquiry theirs was a fascinating story about how the church renovation was paid for. The former priest had left a beautiful painting in the adjoining presbytery (recently demolished as it had fallen into disrepair). In his will he had stipulated that it only be sold to pay for renovation of the church. Removed to Oban and hung in the bishops house – the painting went into a bit of limbo.

St Donan who was massacred with over 50 of his monks by a Pictish Queen in 617

Meanwhile the small and tenacious group of parishioners were fretting about the state of the historic church, exposed to the raw Atlantic winds and harsh winter storms. Recently they heard about the renovation and rededication of the Catholic Church on the neighbouring Isle of Skye. They went to visit to get tips for fund-raising and they were told the best thing to do was to pray to their patronal saint. This they duly did, and the forgotten about painting came back onto the agenda – with one of the final acts of the retiring bishop to get it valued. With the value coming back at between 15,000 – 20,0000 it seemed that they would still fall short by a long way. They kept praying and the painting went up for auction at Sotheby’s two days after the feast of their parish saint. It was sold for nearly £250,000! Mairi, one of the parishioners told me with a beaming smile they are convinced it was due to the intercession of St Donan.

Inside the newly refurbished church

Now their plans are to get more priests visiting the islands to say masses on a more regular basis. They are even considering raising money to build a small chalet next to the church for the visiting priests. Meanwhile however they will be treated to island hospitality! So if you know any priests looking for a week away – in a beautiful spot – with wonderful walking, fishing, sea kayaking opportunities please tell them to contact Mairi at the following address.

Mairi Mackinnon , Maranatha

7 Cleadale , Isle of Eigg, PH42 4RL

Of course all arrangements should also be made through the Parish priest, Fr Andrew Barrett, the Parish Priest at Arisaig whose takes responsibility for the parish on Eigg. I left Eigg inspired by their story and keen to help them. A small but incredibly committed group of faithful. They are not asking for money but simply for priests so they can practise their faith… let’s try and help them!

Arriving for mass on a quad bike

AMDG

Chandra Observatory launched in 1991, at the time the heaviest payload, designed for 5 years, still going strong …pic from NASA

It is striking how well drilled Indian students are in learning and knowing about the lives of the towering figures of Indian History. Gandhi, Ambedkar (the Dalit author of the constitution), Roy, Nehru, the list goes on and on.  I was surprised yesterday in the Hostel with a conversation I had with a very bright student who has just returned. I had put up a display of images of the Solar System, rockets, astronauts, observatories and satellites, with a special focus on Indian hardware.  One of the three space observatories left is the Chandra X Ray Satellite.  NASA named this satellite after a great Indian physicist Chandraseka and it allows us to collect data from deep space.  I was trying to explain this to a gaggle of students who were pressing around, and one older girl knew all about him. I was surprised and very impressed.  Knowledge of these great figures serves to instill national pride and shared identity, a unifying factor to combat communal violence.  However as one of the Jesuits said to me, the education system, still heavily based on rote learning is not geared to encouraging a similar creativity and ingenuity in the majority of students.  Widespread corruption in the examination system is also preventing good practice and good schools to be identified and copied, especially in areas far from the metropolis.

My favourite among these Indian giants is the poet and educationalist, and author of the National Anthem,  Rabindrath Tagore (right).  He is known in India as ‘gurudeb’ – the great teacher.  I remember discovering his poetry at university and at once being mesmerised by its beauty and mysticism.  Tagore won the Nobel  Prize for Literature in 1913 after  Yeats did a lot to get translations of his work published and promoted on a visit to London.   He was knighted in 1915 but repudiated the honour four years later after a terrible massacre by British troops.  Like Ghandi his thoughts on Christ have always fascinated me, although remaining a Hindu he admired Christ greatly. However he did not admire Christians whom he identified with the British Imperial power he was working to overthrow.  In a letter to E J Thompson he said  ‘Do you know I have often felt that if we were not Hindus…I should like my people to be Christians? Indeed, it is a great pity that Europeans have come to us as imperialists rather than as Christians and so have deprived our people of their true contact with the religion of Jesus Christ…What a mental torture it is to know that men are capable of loving each other and adding to one another’s joy, and yet would not!”

I am currently reading a biography of his – so imagine my delight when I found out that he was sent to a Jesuit school - St Xavier’s in Kolkota. It would be nice to say he loved school, this was by no means the case. He hated formal education and being a ‘mere pupil’.  In fact he was sent to St Xaviers as a last desperate attempt by his mother after other institutions had failed. At least it had some impact on him, in a previous school ‘the presidency college’  he only lasted one day! When his mother died he gave up school for good at the age of 13. Ironically he became one of Indias greatest educationalists setting up his own school in Santiniketan. In his memoirs, however I have discovered one reminiscence which I find beautiful ….

2010 – 150 year anniversary

One precious memory of St. Xavier’s I still hold fresh and pure—the memory of its teachers……. This is the memory of Father DePeneranda. He had very little to do with us—if I remember right he had only for a while taken the place of one of the masters of our class. He was a Spaniard and seemed to have an impediment in speaking English. It was perhaps for this reason that the boys paid but little heed to what he was saying. It seemed to me that this inattentiveness of his pupils hurt him, but he bore it meekly day after day. I know not why, but my heart went out to him in sympathy. His features were not handsome, but his countenance had for me a strange attraction. Whenever I looked on him his spirit seemed to be in prayer, a deep peace to pervade him within and without.We had half-an-hour for writing our copybooks; that was a time when, pen in hand, I used to become absent-minded and my thoughts wandered hither and thither. One day Father DePeneranda was in charge of this class. He was pacing up and down behind our benches. He must have noticed more than once that my pen was not moving. All of a sudden he stopped behind my seat. Bending over me he gently laid his hand on my shoulder and tenderly inquired: “Are you not well, Tagore?” It was only a simple question, but one I have never been able to forget. I cannot speak for the other boys but I felt in him the presence of a great soul, and even to-day the recollection of it seems to give me a passport into the silent seclusion of the temple of God.

Teachers often do not realise the impact they are having for good or ill, and what we think is success or failure might turn out different in the grand scheme of things!

——————

A week of Ashes!

AMDG

Wearing her ashes with pride (in Kabul Kabul)

Apologies for the blog silence over the last week – I had a fairly exhausting tour of some of the 51 chapels / ‘destinos’ celebrating the Ash Weds liturgy. It was a fascinating experience. The island has a population of over 90,000 (but only 15 cars / jeeps).  The numbers stem from the time when it was the worlds biggest leper colony (6,000+).  The doctors, nurses and patients all brought their families with them – so the population has grown since. Now there are only 6 patients with leprosy and they are confined to a hospital ward.  We celebrate mass with them once a week and last night I took my laptop and projector and we watched Jurassic Park together.  I think it might have scared them a bit too much!  But they were very excited and lots of hugs when I arrived and left.

Some of the remoter villages are electricity free, I remember one night showing a group of about 50 villagers webpages that I had saved on my laptop – their first experience of the internet!  The majority of the population in these areas are referred to as ‘IP’s’ (indigenous peoples).  The original inhabitants of the island they fled in fear to the remoter parts when the lepers started arriving.  The Jesuits have now turned their attention to helping them – with a literacy program ably assisted by the impressive Cart Wheel Foundation. The parish priest Fr Lito told me that this is already working wonders in terms of self-esteem and confidence.  When he first would go to the areas the IP’s would hide behind the coconut trees, too shy to come and talk. Now they are discussing and planning ways in which they can strengthen their communities.

The view from the Jesuit Community – the church built by the lepers. From this parish church the other 51 chapels are served by boat, jeep and foot

As a priest it has, paradoxically,  been one of the most enjoyable beginnings of Lent I can imagine.  As always the hospitality was wonderful – lots of crabs and freshly caught fish.  I suppose fasting is less meaningful when you are living a fairly subsistence lifestyle and life is more precarious for many as there are less fish and more competition for stock from technologically advanced mainlanders.

I have had my leg in a brace since my operation four weeks ago – so this became a useful prop for homilies.  The discipline of wearing a bandage and a leg brace to allow healing has its parallels with lent.   And slowly taking it off and unravelling the bandage certainly kept the children’s attention!  Many of them staring at me anyway – as though I was from another planet. It was said that for the younger children I was the first white person to visit their village.   One phenomenon that was unusual was that after 10 masses I would explain how I was available for confession – not one person took me up on it.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation certainly seems to be practiced more over here than in the West – so this lack of interest was a surprise.  I have since learnt that many priests have commented on the lack of the sense of personal sin amongst the people – which is an inheritance of the lepers colony.  I suppose that maybe a psychology of outcasts from the ‘morality’ of the world.  At one chapel – after mass they came rushing up to me – At last ! I thought, getting ready to celebrate the sacrament, but no they wanted to know if any of my friends wanted to buy their own island……

3 Million Pesos – (£50,000) – a snip if you ask me!  Anyone interested?

(Highlights of my week on video below)

Gratitude & Candles

AMDG

Candlemas Day

Image via Wikipedia

I was woken up by the sound of plainchant this morning at 6am!  I have to confess I was still in bed…. so I missed the striking sight of the theologians processing into chapel, in their white soutanes, carrying Candles to celebrate the feast of  the Presentation.  Today’s feast is popularly known as ‘Our Lady of the Candles’ here in the Philippines or otherwise known as  Candlemas.   As quite a few of my ex-students are reading this blog  - maybe  a small reminder of today’s feast would be helpful.  The presentation of Our Lord in the Temple (40 days after Christmas Day) – is when we recall Mary presenting the Child Jesus to God in the temple.  40 days was what the Mosaic law prescribed as a period of purification for women after childbirth.

It is a feast that is underplayed in the Church – at least in my experience. I would like to see  a mini-revival. Why? Because it is about gratitude .  For me this is a key to being happy in life.  The happiest people I meet are the most grateful, the most thankful.  2000 years ago in Judea, women showed their gratitude to God by presenting their new-born children at the Temple.  Often when I celebrate baptisms I think that part of the celebration is in offering the life (child or adult) back to God.  When we see things as gifts we are grateful.  Conversely the most miserable people you meet, and often the most angry are those who feel life ‘owes’ them something, or they have been cheated some way.  This sense of entitlement may have been behind the recent credit crash.

So today at mass – I prayed in gratitude for my Mum, who gave birth to two of us!  and also my nieces and nephews. Maybe I’ll never be a dad – but there is still some  joy and privilege in baptising, in celebrating new life.  I hope next week to be celebrating more baptisms in the remote Palawan islands…. but more of that later.  So what are you grateful for? and how are you going to show that gratitude today?

The following video from Igniter – gives fantastic food for thought on that.  The background of volunteers and a soup kitchen remind us that gratitude often leads to generosity.  This time of year we need more grateful people! Good luck to all those working in the night-shelters back where Winter is hitting hard.

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