Living our prayer

1069800_570169316355419_585056357_nI knelt to pray, when day was done,
and prayed: “O Lord, bless everyone!
Lift from each saddened heart the pain
and let the sick be well again.”


And then I woke, another day,
and carelessly went on my way.
The whole day long I did not try
to wipe a tear from any eye.


I did not try to share the load
of any sister on the road.
I did not even go to see
the sick man just next door to me.


Yet once again, when day was done,
I prayed: “O Lord,  bless everyone!”
But as I prayed, into my ear
there came a voice that whispered clear:


gods-hand-in-life.jpg.crop_display“Pause now, my child, before you pray:
whom have you tried to bless today?
God’s sweetest blessings always go
by hands that serve Him here below.”


And then I hid my face and cried,
“Forgive me, God, I have not tried!
But let me live another day
and I will live the way I pray.”


(Author unknown)

Jeremiah & the King

imagesA besieged city, political intrigue and weak leadership are the back-drop to this Sunday’s first reading from the prophet Jeremiah.

The setting is Jerusalem under threat from an expanding Babylonian Empire. The leader is Zedekiah, essentially a puppet-king put in place by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon.

The intrigue is the tussle between the various court factions, each trying to sway Zedekiah into one direction or another.

The events being described took place sometime between 588-587BC. The twelve tribes of ancient Israel which had once formed a single nation under King David had long ago split into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah based around the capital city, Jerusalem, in the south.

Neo-Babylonian_EmpireIsrael had fallen to the then world power, Assyria, back in 721BC. However, a century later, Babylon (which would today be in Iraq) had taken over from Assyria as the major threat to the region, and this new empire was quickly expanding south and west, threatening Egypt which needed allies, as well as a buffer zone between the two empires.

Some at Zedekiah’s court urged the king to unite with the Egyptians in their fight against the Babylonian Empire. Others argued that he should stay in alliance with Babylonia and remain a ‘vassal’ state.

In today’s excerpt, Zedekiah has thrown his lot in with the Egyptians and brought the wrath of the Babylonian Empire upon the city. A weak king, he is paralysed by what to do next: fight on or surrender.

The beginning of the reading has the Egyptian faction at court gaining the upper hand. They demand the execution of Jeremiah, who has been urging surrender to the Babylonians as the only way to avoid bloodshed.

Jeremiah saw the total dominance of the Babylonian Empire in the region as inevitable and believed the fall of Jerusalem to be a punishment from God for the people’s readiness to abandon their faith and worship other gods from the region.

He urged the people not to fight, to accept deportation if necessary, and to trust in the Lord whatever came, rather than rely on politics.

So King Zedekiah has Jeremiah thrown into a well, or water cistern, which has become clogged up with mud.

The second half of the reading sees the intervention of Ebed-melech, a Babylonian supporter and ally of Jeremiah. Note how easily he persuades the king to change his mind and save Jeremiah from drowning in the mud.

Zedekiah is chained and brought before Nebuchadnezzar

Zedekiah is chained and brought before Nebuchadnezzar

Ebed-melech cleverly puts the blame for Jeremiah’s predicament on the king’s advisors, neatly overlooking the fact that it was Zedekiah who had ordered it. He also plays on the king’s fear that Jeremiah is truly a prophet of God and that harming him in any way will bring down terrible retribution on his family and his reign.

In the end, Zedekiah refused to listen to Jeremiah. His policy of flirting with an Eqyptian alliance ends in disaster and leads to the sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the deportation of many of the people as slaves in Babylon.


JEREMIAH 38: 4-6, 8-10

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Assumption of Mary

mary-surrounded-by-angels-assumption-smallThe Feast of the Assumption, held on 15 August each year, celebrates our belief that at the end of Mary’s life on earth her body and soul were taken up (‘assumed‘) into heaven by God.

What Mary has experienced is essentially what has been promised to all of us: a resurrection of our bodies at the end of time and life in heaven in the presence of almighty God, body and soul together.

The idea of our future existence as a union of body & soul in heaven rather than just an immortal spirit is an important one for Christianity. It is something we say we believe each Sunday when we profess the Creed.

In a way, Mary can be taken as a role model for how to be a good disciple. In her life she says a radical ‘Yes’ to God, when invited through the Angel Gabriel to co-operate with His plan to save all people.

In any of the gospel stories Mary is to be found firmly focused on Jesus. ‘Do whatever He tells you,’ she recommends to those wanting more wine at the wedding feast of Cana. At the foot of the Cross, it is Mary who stays standing, filled with anguish at the sight of her dying son.

The Feast of the Assumption, then, is given to us not to glorify Mary as such but to provoke us into reflection: do we say ‘Yes’ to God in our lives, or is it more likely a mixture of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, depending on what suits at the time?

Can we really claim to be near Christ, and willing to stay near, when faced with difficulties and disappointments, confused or alone, in suffering and even death?

And do we really believe what we profess each Sunday Mass: that one day we too will be received body and soul into heaven?

Mary’s Assumption assures us of our dignity and our destiny as followers of the Lord. It is ‘a  sign of sure hope and comfort’ (as the Preface puts it) of what will face each of us one day. It is also a challenge to live more radically the life of the genuine disciple.


From the Preface for the Feast of the Assumption:

For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven

as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection

and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people.

To the Pilgrim

imagesSet Out!
You were born for the road.


Set out!
You have a meeting to keep.
Where? WIth whom?
You do not know yet!


Set out!
Your steps will be your words,
the road your song,
the weariness your prayer,
and at the end
your silence will speak to you.


Set out!
Alone, or with others,
but get out of yourself.
You will find companions.
You envisaged enemies –
you will find brothers and sisters.


Set out!
Your head does not know
where your feet are leading your heart.


Set out!
You were born for the road,
the pilgrim’s road.
Someone is coming to meet you,
is seeking you
so you can find him
in the shrine at the end of the road,
in the shrine at the depth of your heart.


He is your peace!
He is your joy!


God already walks with you.


From the Hermitage of St Honorat, Randa, Majorca.

Shared recently at Masses in Chatteris & Wisbech by Canon John Udris

St Maximilian Kolbe

imagesMaximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894. He joined the Franciscan Order and was ordained priest in 1918. His original name was Raymund but he was given the name of Maximilian upon entering his Order.

His work in Poland included founding a number of Franciscan monasteries, a radio station and setting up a monthly newspaper.


In 1930 he was sent to Japan where, for the next six years, he founded another monastery, this time in Nagasaki. He also established another newspaper and set up a seminary.

NagasakibombAt the time, Kolbe was criticised for the location of his monastery, set as it was on a mountainside. Some Japanese who followed the Shinto religion felt it wasn’t in keeping with nature. Interestingly, when Nagasaki was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945, Kolbe’s monastery was one of the few buildings to survive – precisely because of its location.

Kolbe returned to Poland in 1936 and was there for the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Maximilian sheltered around 2,000 Jews trying to avoid capture.

In 1941 Kolbe himself was arrested by the Gestapo and after three months in prison was transferred to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

In July of that year, three prisoners managed to escape from the camp and, as a deterrent to others, the Commandant ordered ten men to be picked at random and starved to death.

200px-Fr.Maximilian_Kolbe_1939As the ten prisoners were being led off to an underground bunker, one of them cried out for his wife and children. Immediately, Maximilian Kolbe, a single man with no family of his own, volunteered to take his place.

During the process of starvation, Kolbe is said to have comforted the other dying prisoners,  leading them in prayer. When after two weeks only Maximilian was still alive, the prison guards speeded things up by killing him with a lethal injection.


In 1982 Maximilian Kolbe was canonized as a martyr by Pope John Paul II. At the ceremony were the family of the man, Franciszek Gajowniczek, whom he had saved from starvation.

Maximilian’s canonization as a martyr caused some controversy at the time. Although Kolbe’s death was heroic he was not killed specifically because he was a Christian, and therefore arguably not technically a martyr.

However, Pope John Paul II wished to make the point that the Nazi holocaust, primarily directed at the Jewish people, was an act of hatred against humanity and against faith and in that sense St Maximilian died upholding the values of Christianity.

200px-Kolbe-szombathelySt Maximilian Kolbe’s Feast day is on 14 August and will be celebrated with Mass in the Convent in March at 10.00am.