Jesus is Coming – Look Busy!

Mgr-James-Cronin-MissioMonsignor James Cronin, the National Director of Missio – the Church’s overseas missionary charity – reflects on a God who has already found us.

“The carols we sing always speak about our longings and yearnings for God . . . John of the Cross said ‘If anyone is seeking God, God is seeking that person more!'”


God in the Everyday

imagesCheck out the website run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.  It offers short reflections on the readings for each day taken from the lectionary for Mass.

There are also links to help you find out more about the life and work of the FMM.

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have had a community in March parish for a good number of years and are a much loved and valued presence within our community.

St Benedict

492px-Fra_Angelico_031Benedict was born at the end of the fifth century in Norsia in Italy (then the Roman Empire). At the age of around 19 or 20 he abandoned his student life in Rome and went off to  live as a hermit, just outside of Subiaco. He wanted to get away from what he considered the paganism of Roman life. For three years he lived in a cave overlooking a lake, relying on food and supplies from a nearby monastery.

Gradually he became recognised as a person of outstanding holiness and when the Abbot of Vicavaro died, the community came to Benedict to plead with him to be their next leader.

Reluctant Abbot

images-1Benedict reluctantly agreed. He probably should have followed his instinct and refused, because his time as Abbot was a bit of a disaster. The monks tried to poison him not once but twice!

Benedict took the hint and left the community at Vicavaro to live once again in his cave near Subiaco. However, his fame seemed to spread even further afield and people began to turn to him increasingly for spiritual direction and advice.

Establishing communities

images-2Benedict set up 12 small communities around Subiaco and eventually founded the great Monastery of Monte Cassino, where a community of Benedictine monks still live to this day (albeit in a different building), perched on a mountain overlooking Subiaco itself.


Benedict’s Rule

Benedict is most famous for his Rule. This piece of “advice from a father who loves you,” as Benedict himself described it, was originally written as a guide book for monks living in community. Over the centuries it has proved relevant to all sorts of people living in all sorts of environments.

Patron of Europe

Benedict lived in a Roman Empire falling apart. Even before he was born, Rome had been sacked by the barbarians. The communities which Benedict founded – and the movement of Benedictine monasteries and convents inspired by his Rule – gradually brought about a new stability to Europe, education, and a care for the poor and needy.


High on Benedict’s list of priorities for his  monks was that they should welcome strangers as if they were Christ himself. Some monasteries today take this so seriously that, when visitors stay for a meal, they are given seats of honour at the top table and offered the food first. They are waited upon by the monks (including the Abbot) and shown the utmost respect. Many of these visitors in other circumstances would be considered down and outs.

images-3The most striking element of Benedict’s rule is the instruction to listen. “Attend with the ear of your heart,” he says.  Benedictine life is a mixture of work and prayer with an attentiveness to listen to the Lord speaking to us through both.


St Benedict Abbot & Patron of Europe. Feast Day: 11 July

You can find out more about modern day Benedictine life by visiting the websites for Ampleforth Abbey and the Holy Trinity Monastery in Herefordshire.


A prayer attributed to St Benedict:

Gracious and holy Father,
please give me:

intellect to understand you;
reason to discern you;
diligence to seek you;
wisdom to find you;
a spirit to know you;
a heart to meditate upon you;
ears to hear you;
eyes to see you;
a tongue to proclaim you;
a way of life pleasing to you;
patience to wait for you;
and perseverance to look for you.


Awesome God

It is certainly true of my experience that, for all the departmental rivalry between science and RE at school, we are far more likely to find ourselves by the age of twenty-one sitting in a pub somewhere discussing God and the meaning of life than debating the merits of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and the contribution to our well-being of particle physics.

41Z6S0J7RHL._SY445_In Awesome God, however, Sara Maitland has deftly demonstrated that the popular divide conceived between science and religion is rather less than paper-thin. Indeed, as she points out, “If we look at creation, and ourselves within it, we can indeed see the thumb-prints or brushstrokes of God.”

What Maitland means here is more far-reaching than simply being moved to prayer by a mountainscape, or stunned into contemplative stillness by a beautiful sunset. She proposes that as people of faith, as creatures who recognise their Creator, we should engage with modern science and discover a God more awesome than ever we could have thought.

Pulling together scientific strands from subjects as diverse as mathematics, cosmology, quantum physics, neurology, psychoanalysis and psychiatry, evolutionary theory, and a range of social sciences, Maitland maintains: “Nothing in this threatens the narrative of my faith. The incarnation of Jesus, the nature of the Trinity, and my hopes of salvation are all deepened, enriched, and secured in this science.”

saraMaitlandLet me say unequivocally: this is an excellent book. Sara Maitland not only writes about complex ideas with such a lucidity that means the reader needs neither a background in science nor theology; but also with such an appealing approach that one wants to develop a deeper interest in both these areas.

Her humour and humility, interlaced throughout the work, make this an inspired piece of writing from someone who relishes the opportunity “to wallow in all that we can find” and to rejoice in the splendid wonder of God.

Awesome God by Sara Maitland is available through Amazon

Tears at Night, Joy at Dawn

41W9RGBFQ6L._It’s the smiling face that is so disarming about the book, Tears at Night, Joy at Dawn. Not simply the smiling face on the front cover of Andrew Robinson’s ‘journal of a dying seminarian,’ although that is arresting enough. Rather the smiling face of his character, beaming through his last days as he tries to impress upon you, the reader, that despite everything, despite suffering and loss, he is at peace with himself, with his family and friends, and with God. ‘This peace . . . is the pearl of great price,’ he writes in his diary, ‘which, in hindsight, is worth selling everything for.’

In 1997, aged 26 and with a house, a girlfriend, and a good job with good prospects, Andrew Robinson changed his life’s direction and entered St. Mary’s College, Oscott to begin training for the priesthood. Just three years later, half way through that training, his life changed again, this time with the diagnosis of an advanced case of cancer of the colon. The prognosis was not good.

Tears at Night chronicles the last four months of Andrew’s life, including a trip to Rome and to the shrine of Padre Pio at Giovanni Rotundo. Being the diary of a dying man, this book is raw in its writing rather than a polished portrayal but it is all the better for it.

Here, you realise pretty quickly, is a book filled not with pious sentiment but with the relationship of divine grace and human freedom: a relationship rooted in what might be considered unutterable tragedy and waste and yet is actually discovered to be the real stuff of genuine Christian hope.

The smiling face of Andrew’s character is nothing but a reflection of God’s own smiling face.  The pearl of great price has been discovered not despite his illness but because of it. This book is a compelling testimony to the redemptive power of suffering and to the true holiness of one young man.

Tears at Night, Joy at Dawn has recently been published in a second edition with an accompanying CD. It is available from the Archdiocese of Birmingham website.

Book Review by Sean Connolly