Tag Archive: death


AMDG

Richard III_4Last year there was the remarkable story, here in the UK,  of the discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III under a car park in Leicester.   Killed in 1485, he was the last Plantagenet King and it brought an end to the grim War of the Roses (which George R R Martin claims Game of Thrones is based on).  Richards reputation is as unpleasant as most of the characters in the imaginary Westeros and beyond (did he really kill his nephews in the tower?) His bloody death would probably fit right in to one of GOT’s episodes ‘My Kingdom for a Horse….’ and all that, and the refusal of the Tudors to give him a Christian Burial shows the ruthlessness of the time.

RIII-tomb-banner1-1024x524Despite his bad reputation, which many say is exaggerated by Shakespeare, it was decided to give him a Christian burial in a place of honour in Leicester Cathedral.  With thousands lining the streets to honour his coffin (only in England!).  Then there was an interesting discussion whether or not as a Catholic King – The C of E (a Tudor development) hadn’t even been thought off – if he was to be laid to rest in a place of honour in Leicester Cathedral at least he should have a Catholic Funeral . Finally there was an ecumenically sensitive reburial presided over by Justin Welby with Cardinal Nichols in attendance which was broadcast live on Channel 4 (the Cardinal had said mass for his soul a few days before at All Souls Priory in Leicester).

_89550874_89550873So as 5000-1 Leicester City are crowned champions and make worldwide news, the same evening as another man from Leicester is crowned world Snooker Champion, is this a sign that the moral order of the universe has been restored? Is this the fruit of dignifying a King with the hallowed grounds of a Cathedral.  On the BBC this morning was a wonderful fairy tale ‘The Fox and the Ghost King’ written by the childrens author, Michael Morpurgo (War Horse).   Or could it be the Buddhist monk Phra Prommangkalachan who the Thai owners revere?  Leicester Fans are already flocking to his temple!

Although this is obviously tongue in cheek – One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is Burying the Dead.  In this year of Mercy we are asked to remember the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.  Usually burying the dead means helping those without the resources to have the dignity of a funeral – rather than just be tossed into a paupers grave. Following the example of some of the Jesuit High Schools in the US, I have asked our SVP group to negotiate with Manchester Council on offering a dignified funeral here at the Holy Name for those homeless who die on the streets of Manchester. We think of all those buried in unmarked graves in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.  We also pray for Burundi and the alarming noises being made by the president of the senate about ‘Spraying cockroaches with bullets ‘ and ‘Starting Work’ (echoes of Rwanda) . There are growing fears of a Tutsi genocide in Burundi, more unmarked graves, more mass burials.

AMDG

This letter from Marquette University 1996 graduate and journalist James Foley was published in Marquette Magazine’s fall 2011 issue after he returned safely from Libya, where he had been captured. Foley was kidnapped again in November 2012 while covering the Syrian civil war. He was executed this week by Islamic militants.

26514236-mjs_foley_02_nws_wood_foley-2b6q92oMarquette University has always been a friend to me. The kind who challenges you to do more and be better and ultimately shapes who you become.  With Marquette, I went on some volunteer trips to South Dakota and Mississippi and learned I was a sheltered kid and the world had real problems. I came to know young people who wanted to give their hearts for others. Later I volunteered in a Milwaukee junior high school up the street from the university and was inspired to become an inner-city teacher. But Marquette was perhaps never a bigger friend to me than when I was imprisoned as a journalist. Myself and two colleagues had been captured and were being held in a military detention centre in Tripoli. Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.

I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her. I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused. Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone. Later we were taken to another prison where the regime kept hundreds of political prisoners. I was quickly welcomed by the other prisoners and treated well. One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”

download (7)I said a final prayer and dialled the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.” “Jimmy, where are you?”-“I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.” – “Don’t be sorry, Jim,” she pleaded. “Oh, Daddy just left. Oh … He so wants to talk to you. How are you, Jim?” I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest. – “Are they making you say these things, Jim?” – “No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her. “I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?” – “Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends, Donnie, Michael Joyce, Dan Hanrahan, Suree, Tom Durkin, Sarah Fang have been calling. Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t. – “They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked. – “I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat. The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away. “We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.  I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.

My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released.

AMDG

14415774496_6eeb3942fa_mBoth the first week and the third week of the exercises focus us on the reality of disorder in the world – in our own lives (in the first week) and the disorder and violence that leads to Christ Passion and death in the third week.  The horrific flood of headlines at the moment about so much violence in the world, fuelled by land and religion.  The suffering of the most vulnerable, the poor, women and children, remind us that to be in denial about sin in the world is irresponsible.  What has changed though is the advent of social media – that as more and more of us live our lives on-line, we are leaving a record of our actions and experiences for good or ill.  Andrew Keen , in his excellent book ‘Digital Vertigo’, claims that we are now living in an age of exhibitionism – and it seems that what we are exhibiting is not always good and noble.

The last couple of years I have been giving talks to students and teachers about the importance of cleaning up their ‘digital footprint’.  A chaplain I worked with once, was very good at being a benign presence on social  media.  He would often log on – on a Sat morning and gently suggest that drunken photos might want to be deleted.  I often remind students that when they apply for a job, their CV’s are less important to their employers than their facebook profile.  I have heard countless stories of how prospective employers have binned piles of CV’s without even looking at them after exploring the candidates Digital Footprint.

Recently what has been shocking has been the use of ISIS of social media as a way of spreading fear.   Videos and pictures posted on the internet – of grisly beheadings, summary executions are shockingly mainstream.  It maybe one of the reasons that the Iraqi army crumbled so quickly whilst the ISIS forces advanced so rapidly.  When these shocking videos started appearing on the internet during the Chechen War, it was pretty difficult to stumble upon them, now they appear on twitter feeds and facebook updates without warning. They should be taken down as soon as they can.  And when these ‘tourist’ jihadists return home the evidence they have indicted themselves with should be used to convict them of war crimes.  Interestingly this article argues that images on a Russian Soldiers Instagram account seem to offer evidence that could point towards Russian involvement of the Malayasian Airline tragedy.

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