Called God's Children

‘Think of the love that the Father has lavished upon us, by letting us be called God’s children, and that is what we are’ (1 John 3:1)

In this month of prayer for the dead, these words of St John call to mind the many funerals I’ve attended over the years, where they were often part of the readings. For me, contemplating the future with God of someone I love, they conjure up a wonderful sense of intimacy, of the person being embraced by God.

Perhaps it’s easier in a way, because at a funeral I become aware of so many whose lives were touched and, in some way, made holy by that person’s influence. I learn so much, that I wasn’t aware of before — even when it’s someone I thought I knew very well. It isn’t difficult to see that person as a true child of God, who will be carried through to new life, held in the arms of God.

But although I’m so familiar with the idea that we’re all children of God, I often wonder whether I really believe it of myself — in my heart, so to speak, not just in theory. I don’t think this is because of a strong sense of sinfulness. Again, though I recognise this, I don’t know that I feel it as strongly as people seem to have done in past centuries. Perhaps it’s more the apparent ordinariness of life, from day to day. I just don’t feel particularly holy, most of the time!

I say ‘apparent ordinariness’, because in reality there is nothing ordinary about it. I should remember that each person I meet is a mystery, that (as I found so often at funerals) there is so much about him or her that I don’t see or even imagine. There is the amazing mystery of children growing up and discovering things for the first time. Husbands and wives can still discover new depths in each other, after many years.

In my prayer, I have the opportunity to allow God to show me something of the mystery that is myself. He sees possibilities in me, which I don’t even suspect. He has told me that I am his child, do I have the faith to really believe it?

Reflection by Bishop Paul Hendricks (Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark)

Taste and see that the Lord is good

Vadstena - Sweden

Vadstena - Sweden

‘Taste and see that the Lord is good, Happy are those who take refuge in God’ (Psalm 34)

As the summer months begin to draw to a close and already the evenings and daylight become shorter it is good each evening simply to sit for a while to pause and reflect on the day. Psalm 34 is just one of the many Psalms which make us aware of the importance of our senses when we look at the world around us, and noticing how they help us to look positively and praise God.

‘Taste and See’ is just the beginning - if we read the Psalm more closely the Psalmist talks about our listening, our tongue, our gaze, our eyes, our ears, our lips. Sharpening our senses can help us to become more aware of the goodness of God in all around us, but also our senses can also be a source of evil and lead us to separation from God. For the ‘wandering’ moments when we have used our ears, our eyes, our lips, our touch not within the perspective of God’s love- we ask for God’s forgiveness and loving mercy, to bring us back to ‘our true senses!’

As the daylight draws to a close let us pause and thank God for the day, this day and all that it has contained,all that is and all that will be.   We ask for the grace for tomorrow to sharpen our senses so that we may - ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’. Created in God’s image we are first and foremost called to praise and glory in His Holy Name, entrusting our world to his loving care.  

Reflection by Sister Diane Reynolds (Chair of the Spirituality Commission)

An Overview of Some Kent Spiritualities

St Anselm (b. 1033), Archbishop of Canterbury (1093-1109)

St Anselm (b. 1033), Archbishop of Canterbury (1093-1109)

Each of our neighbours, in any place of worship, will have taken a wandering past pathway of conversion in their lives. They may be quite selective about which moments or incidents from that past they want to discuss openly with a new friend. Nevertheless, if they want to make the most of God’s loving hand, active within their self-understanding, they will need to ask, ‘”Where have I come from?” even while wanting to consider, “Who am I?” and “Where is life leading?” Spirituality is the name we give to whatever blend of sharing, prayer, listening and meditative reflection we try out, in order to reach that fuller self-awareness.

Even long-term residents of Kent can have an impression of this as an area that has been passed by, in the spread of lively Catholic understanding. It can feel like an area of casual visitors, dropping in for the Oyster Festival or a Castle’s attractive flower garden. Yet this is far from the real story of Catholic Kent. Brave hearts and minds have been wrestling with difficult theological truths and spiritual experience here for two thousand years. Names who deserve to be remembered include the Benedictines Augustine of Canterbury and St. Anselm (both Italians), Archbishops such as friar John Peckham and the scholar Stephen Langton, the Franciscan Adam Marsh and day visitor Wolfgang Mozart, through to modern Jesuit theologians Teilhard de Chardin and Henri de Lubac. There are also Catholics who have taught at the University of Kent, or converts such as the novelist Muriel Spark, living alongside the Carmelites, who deserve our attention.

Spirituality has developed in a number of distinctive directions over two thousand years, and familiarity with some of its versions can broaden our self-understanding and stimulate our religious creativity as members of local communities. In our own period, the Church has taken up the challenge of articulating a sensitive dialogue with secular society about the search for meaning and the gifts of God. It will help us to become participants in this dialogue if we learn more of the language of mission and grace which has flourished, even in small ways, amongst our Kent neighbours. The PDF available for downloading with this article gives a more thorough insight into those who have contributed to this language. More names may come to mind, about whom further reflections could be offered in the future.

Reflection from Chris Dyczek, OFM

Come away and rest a while

Sweden - Sigtuna

Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For there were so many comings and goings, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves (Mark 6:31-32).

“Come away and rest awhile” is Jesus’ invitation to each one of us.  Summer can offer a bit more time for relaxation and contemplation. Fewer activities, fewer commitments, time away from work, when we can be with the Lord away from the maddening crowd!

But for some of us, the holiday, the resting place maybe in fact ‘staying at home’ - as Jesus doesn’t always literally mean “come away.” We can learn to rest in the Lord without leaving our physical home or it being in a physical place!  We can even ‘rest’ in the middle of the crowd!   ‘Make your home in me, as I make mine in yours’ (John 15:4)

But If you are lucky enough to be taking a holiday away then set some time aside to sit with God on the beach, in the hills, or in a garden, among the trees and let the beauty of God’s creation fill you with his presence; simply soak up God’s love by taking each day a few minutes of silent reflection, in a spirit of thanksgiving.

In the spirit of a ‘stay-at-home- holiday’ you need go no further than your favourite chair to share a conversation with the Lord, or simply be in tune with all that is around you – letting yourself be surprised at how God can speak to you through all that surrounds you, even through the clutter! 

What do you understand by ‘resting in the Lord’?   Where do you ‘see’ your resting place?

Reflection by Sister Diane Reynolds (Chair of the Spirituality Commission)