Religion

God in ....

For this Sunday I simply offer this prayer. 

From the Celtic tradition, it's a prayer which for many many centuries has been spoken - out loud and in the silence of a prayerful moment -  bringing comfort, challenge and inspiration. 

If you have  a moment or two today to think of the Divine and the Almighty ... may I humbly suggest that this might be a good place to start?

Have a blessed day!

God in


A Chapter in History

Today I'm doing something a little bit different. I'm sharing with you a chapter of the first book I ever wrote.

It was published in September 2013 and it was the first of two books commissioned by Lion Hudson/Monarch publishers to mark the 150th anniversary of the worldwide Christian movement, The Salvation Army, in 2015 and it's the story of the founders of that church and charity organisation, William Booth and Catherine Booth.

When I was asked to write their story I immediately wanted to make it a bit 'different' to other 'biographies'. I knew that through their lives together - from their first meeting in 1852 until Catherine's death on October 4th 1890 - they had written letters to each other. These letters are held by the British Library in London and they and the Booth family kindly gave me permission to reproduce some of the letters in my book.

WIlliam and Catherine front cover Sept 2013 Monarch booksThrough reading their letters and notes I really got to know these two people who, through their mutual love for God and each other, and their joint aim to share the good news of Jesus Christ and to see people 'saved' for God and 'saved' from lives of poverty and disadvantage, founded a Christian movement that now operates in more than 130 countries and every day, through their churches and social centres and individuals, help millions of people across the globe.

My reading of their love letters, and my understanding of their characters, motives, moods and history led to another element of the book. Instead of just historic narrative around the letters, I also created little stories, imagining their lives and the lives of those around them based in part on their own words in their letters. 

The book was - not unsurprisingly - called 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters'

Catherine BoothToday I'm thinking about Catherine, because as you may have noticed from the dates above ... it was on this day in 1890 that she passed away - in The Salvation Army they believe Christian people are 'Promoted to Glory' - believers go to Heaven when they die.

Catherine died from breast cancer - when we launched my book on September 25th 2013 at The Salvation Army in London, we combined it with a coffee morning for Macmillan Cancer Support - and Chapter 19 of the book ... the penultimate chapter actually ... is the narrative of her final days. 

When news of her death became known, there were newspaper tributes across the world and The Methodist Recorder of 9 October 1890 paid tribute to her as “the greatest Methodist woman of this generation”. 

Today I share this with you, to celebrate this incredible woman whose death was  mourned not just by her beloved husband and her large family, and the wider Salvation Army across the world who called her 'The Army Mother' ... but by many more who admired and loved her.

“Mrs Booth is here, sir; shall I bring her in?”
Sir
James Paget looked up from his desk and nodded. No matter how many years he was in practice, this remained the worst part of the job.
The s
mall woman entered the room.
“Good day,
Mrs Booth. Please, take a a chair.”
Catherine Booth
slipped onto the chair on the other side of the large heavy oak desk on which the consultant had her paperwork spread out in front of him. She sat carefully, smoothed her dark skirts with her delicate hands, and slid off her r gloves.
“Has no one
accompanied you today, Mrs Booth? One of your daughters? Your husband?”
“No, sir.
I have come alone. I thought it best. The General ... Mr Booth, that is ... is preparing for a trip and leaves shortly. He wanted to come but ... there is so much to do.”
Catherine Booth spoke softly, and precisely. There was no hint of emotion in her voice, although her face was as white as snow, framed by her greying hair under her dark poke bonnet.
“Well
, Mrs Booth. I have my conclusions.”
Sir James
looked at the woman across the desk. She smiled a wry little smile.
“And,
Sir James? Is it what we thought it was?”

“I’m afraid so.”
“And ... ?”
“Well, as we feared, the disease is quite advanced already.”
“My mother died of it. Did I tell you that?”
“Yes, Mrs Booth.”
“And ... ” she swallowed deeply... “Is there anything...? I mean, what... time...”
Sir James Paget looked at Catherine Booth. His heart ached for her.
“Well, as I said before. In this stage it could be eighteen months, maybe two years. But there is really... nothing much... we can do.”
Catherine Booth cleared her throat and then smiled, sadly but sweetly.
“God is good, Mr Paget. He knows what He is about. But there is one thing perhaps you can do for me.” “Anything, Mrs Booth.”
“Might you be so kind as to ask your secretary to perhaps call me a cab? I do need to get home. William... Mr Booth ... will be anxious.”

It was February 1888. Catherine had been ill for a while. Sometime during the previous year she had found a lump in her breast and her family doctor had warned that it was, more than likely, cancerous. Eventually she was persuaded to make an appointment with the eminent Harley Street consultant, surgeon, and pathologist Sir James Paget, who confirmed that Catherine had incurable cancer. She had been in agony for some while, but the news that she was dying left William, in particular, inconsolable.
On her return home after that appointment with the doctor, William was waiting and ran out into the street to meet her and help her into the house, where she broke the news just received from Sir James. 
William later recalled the emotional meeting.

She tried to smile upon me, through her tears; but drawing me into the room, she unfolded to me gradually the result of her interview. I sat down speechless. She rose from her seat and came and knelt beside me, saying, “Do you know what was my first thought? That I should not be there to nurse you, at your last hour.”
I was stunned. I felt as if the whole world was coming to a standstill. She talked like a heroine, like an angel, to me. She talked as she had never talked before. I could say nothing. I could only kneel with her and try to pray.

William was due to leave for a series of meetings in Holland that night and Catherine insisted he went, although he left early to return to London where, he recalled, “life became a burden, almost too heavy to be borne, until God in a very definite manner comforted my heart.” The 3 March 1888 edition of the Salvation Army newspaper, the War Cry, delivered the news that The Army Mother, as Catherine was beginning to be known, was seriously ill.
Daughter Emma’s wedding to Frederick Tucker was brought forward to April in order that Mama could be present. Catherine’s last public engagement was on 21 June 1888, when she delivered an address at the City Temple, a free church in Holborn in London.
She managed to attend William’s sixtieth birthday celebrations in The Salvation Army’s Clapton Congress Hall in East London on 10 April 1889 and, although she missed the dinner, where a reported 2,000 people sat down to eat, Catherine did address the gathering and reflected, with humour, on their early days together

As my dear husband was speaking, I thought of his beloved mother, whom I loved as much as my own, and admired more than almost any woman I ever knew. When he was speaking of her, and making you laugh over his likening himself to her in his meekness and self-depreciation, I said to my friend there: “It is quite true, though you would not think it,” for no one knows the bolstering-up, and almost dragging-up, I was going to say, that sometimes I had to do for him in those early days. You would think now that he had always been the bold and self-sufficient – as some people think – man he is, but I can assure you he went forth ofttimes with so great trembling and fear for himself that he would ever have gone if I had not been behind him.

Catherine was still the only person who could be completely honest with and about William Booth, who even his most loyal supporters, friends, and colleagues recognized to be an autocratic leader and, particularly as he grew older, less patient and kind with those around him. For William, his wife’s rapid decline after her diagnosis was unbearable, as he anticipated the loss of the one with whom he had shared his life for nigh on forty years.
The family, who had moved from their home in Rookwood Road in Stamford Hill in the borough of Hackney, where they had lived for a few years, to Hadley Wood, a more leafy suburb further north, which was thought to be more conducive to Catherine’s good health, were now on the move again.
Soon after his birthday party in 1889, the family relocated to Clacton-on-Sea on the Essex coast, in order that she could have her dying wish – to be “Promoted to Glory” near the ocean. Family and Salvation Army life continued. William spent as much time as he could in Clacton, virtually moving his office to Essex.
During her long final illness, when Catherine Booth could do little more than occasionally attend private meetings and functions and then not even that, her main focus became her family, her friends, The Salvation Army, and her writing. She penned letters and notes to individuals and articles for Salvation Army publications. Even if she could not physically work, she was determined that her spiritual warfare would continue. Among the letters and articles were those to comrades at home and overseas, which were designed to reassure and encourage:

Regard no opposition, persecution or misrepresentation. Millions upon millions wait for us to bring to them the light of life. Although not able to be at the front of the battle in person, my heart is there, and the greatest pain I suffer arises from my realisation of the vast opportunities of the hour, and of the desperate pressure to which many of my comrades are subject, while I am deprived of the ability to help them, as in days gone by.

A number of times the family were called to Catherine’s bedside, but she persistently clung to life. 1889 turned into 1890 and in September of that year she was still with them, insisting, despite her son’s protestations, that Herbert marry his Miss Schoch, as planned. Although she could not attend the wedding, a chair and her portrait were set in the place where the groom’s mother should have sat.
Although heartbroken, William continued with his work. Even while his wife was dying, he was writing a book that would become central to The Salvation Army, its ministry and its witness in the future. Catherine encouraged him, and indeed continued to give constant advice as her husband wrote In Darkest England and The Way Out, described as a “social manifesto”.

This 140,000-word tome explored ideas that had been gradually gestating in his and Catherine’s hearts, minds and ministry (if in fact they had not been there from the outset), including providing shelter, food, and training for the poor. Early on, even in the days of the Christian Mission, soup kitchens and food distribution had been included in the Booths’ outreach to the disadvantaged. Work among prisoners and with homeless and vulnerable men and women had already commenced and Salvation Army refuges were emerging. William’s book developed these ideas further and also explored the concept of helping those without hope to learn new trades, primarily in agriculture, and then assisting them to emigrate to better lives in the New World.
Aided in its writing by William’s old friend, the newspaperman W.T. Stead, In Darkest England and The Way Out compared what was considered to be “civilized” England with “Darkest Africa”, a continent then viewed as backward and poverty-stricken. William Booth suggested that many of the inhabitants of London and England, despite the “Industrial Revolution”, were not much better off when it came to quality of life than those in the underdeveloped world. The book drew on recent research by another Booth, the philanthropist and social researcher Charles Booth, who was documenting working-class life near the end of the nineteenth century. William’s book also expounded the concept of “The Submerged Tenth” – the proportion of the population that he claimed were living on the border of or in poverty, and which the Darkest England schemes would be there to save: three million and more men, women, and children who needed ““rescuing”.
William Booth’s vision to help the poor out of the distress they found themselves in was by no means unique – Christians had been practising “good deeds” throughout history and attempts to rehabilitate the poor were common in Victorian England. But the book, which was published just two weeks after Catherine’s death, was destined to become a best-seller and formed the foundation of The Salvation Army’s modern social welfare approach to faith and salvation. It would capture the imagination of the masses, much to the discontent of those in society who wished the poor to remain, largely, in their place. As in the early days of The Salvation Army, when William and Catherine battled with those who believed their new Christian movement to be outrageous, the language of the book and its programme were viewed as radical. It advocated the abolition of poverty and vice by, among other things, a link between the Christian gospel and a strong work ethic, and promoted the
establishment of communities for homeless people, where they could be trained for appropriate employment. Out of this vision came the Farm Colony at Hadleigh in Essex, which did just that, preparing people for a future often as emigrants to a new life abroad. The book also proposed homes for fallen women and released prisoners, schemes for legal assistance for the poor, banks and clinics, industrial schools, and so much more. William Booth proposed that if the state failed to meet its social obligations it should be the task of each Christian to step into the breach – a snipe at the government if ever there was one.
For some, this might have sounded radical. For William and Catherine Booth there was no confusion. They were not turning their backs on their spiritual convictions. Far from it! All the projects and programmes and outreach outlined in In Darkest England and The Way Out had just one aim – to ensure that people became Christians. What good was it to have “saved” people if they continued to be in desperate circumstances and unable to fulfil their new potential as children of God? What hope had they of responding to the gospel if they were drunk, hungry, homeless, abused, and without hope?
William’s book was being finished as Catherine was dying, and in the introduction he paid tribute to the wife so recently departed:

To one who has been for nearly forty years indissolubly associated with me in every undertaking I owe much of the inspiration which has found expression in this book. It is probably difficult for me to fully estimate the extent to which the splendid benevolence and unbounded sympathy of her character has pressed me forward in the life-long service of man, to which we have devoted both ourselves and our children. It will be an ever green and precious memory to me that amid the ceaseless suffering of a dreadful malady my dying wife found relief in considering and developing the suggestions for the moral and social and spiritual blessing of the people which are here set forth, and I do thank God she was taken from me only when the book was practically complete and the last chapters had been sent to the press.

For Catherine there was now not much more time. One of her final messages for her beloved Salvation Army came in a letter to Salvationists from her bed for the 1890 annual Self Denial campaign and appeal.

My Dear Children and Friends,

I have loved you so much, and in God’s strength have helped you a little. Now, at His call, I am going away from you.
The War must go on.
Self-Denial will prove your love to Christ. All must do something.
I send you my blessing. Fight on, and God will be with you. 
Victory comes at last. I will meet you in Heaven.

Catherine Booth. 

This was published on 4 October 1890. Three days before, Catherine had suffered a massive haemorrhage. The family gathered for the final time around her bed in Crossley House in Clacton-on-Sea for a four-day vigil, during which they all prayed and sang. On the day of the publication of her final letter, at 3.30 in the afternoon, Catherine Booth, aged sixty-one, was finally Promoted to Glory.

My darling One,
I never thought of you wanting a line or you should have had a better one, but you will accept this, just to assure you of my fullest and most satisfying assurance of your unalterable and eternal love to me. I have never doubted the possession of your heart from the day you first declared it mine. We were wed for ever, and though I go first you will soon follow and we shall find our all again in that eternal day, Amen, Amen.
Goodbye, darling, till then. I shall be the first to greet you on that eternal shore with all our children
and thousands of spiritual children from all lands.
Yours as ever, Catherine

Chapter 19 (pages 293 to 302 of the book) ends with a note which Catherine wrote to her beloved William in her final days and it is in equal measure, heart breaking, stoic and full of hope in the future, albeit not here on earth.

That was Catherine ... and if you want to read more about her and William, their early lives before they created The Salvation Army, the first years of that movement and their love and family life,  my book is still available including online through Amazon and all the usual websites and the publisher Lion Hudson.

Please feel free to search online or click here ... 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters'

Thanks!


Not Lost in Translation

Do you speak more than one language?

Maybe you're multi-lingual or, like me, English is my 'mother tongue' and I only speak a smattering of other languages.

A little French - that's about it. I have a few words of Kiswahili, learned when I was a child in Africa. I can say 'good morning' and 'thanks' in a few other languages but not much more than that! I can't converse in any other that the English language. 

Although many people do speak English across the world, for which I'm very grateful, there are times when we go places and we find ourselves in need of help ... we may need a 'translator'. These days there are apps on our 'phones and tech devices that can help us to translate what is being said, but also there are those clever people who make their living translating from one language to another - helping others to communicate.

Today, believe it or not, is International Translation Day  - a day for recognising translation professionals.

But  why today - September 30th?

Well, today is a celebration of St. Jerome,  who is considered the patron saint of translators.

ThursdayJerome lived in the early part of the first century - born it's thought around AD342 or AD 347. He died on this day - September 30th - in the year AD420.

Jerome was a Christian priest, theologian and historian. He is best  known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate) but he also wrote other commentaries on the whole Bible. He was also known for his teachings on the Christian moral life, especially to those living in cosmopolitan centres such as Rome in his time.  Interesting point -  he often focused his attention on the lives of women and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life. This came about because he was close to several female 'ascetics' from affluent families. 

His contribution to Christianity is so appreciated that Jerome is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.

Today is Jerome's 'feast day' and also ... since 2017 ... a date set aside by the United Nations as the day when we recognise the role of professional translation and translators in connecting nations.  Apart from encouraging us all to celebrate their contribution, the United Nations today also stages an annual St. Jerome Translation Contest for translations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and German.

I first saw translators in action when I lived in Africa - people translating sermons in church services without notes, just responding to what was being said from the pulpit! I've also seen translators work at conferences and that's amazing. They have to be so quick-thinking and alert, and the ability to listen to one language and simultaneously translate into another is a wonderful skill.

Helping others to communicate, to break down the barriers between nations and peoples, is an important contribution not just to relationships between individuals but also to peace and understanding in the world. 

Sometimes we think, arrogantly, that those who don't understand or speak OUR language must be somehow lacking. And I'm not just talking about French, Spanish, English ... or Swahili or any other 'lingo'! We expect them to be like us, act like us, fit in to our agenda - to 'speak our language' in lots of respects. And that means we may miss out on the diversity of difference. When we don't try to understand where people are coming from, let alone their actual words,  that's a shame.

So today, as we celebrate those brilliant people who help to actually translate conferences, and meetings and correspondence so that everyone is aware of what others are saying and thinking and imagining,  let's also ask ourselves whether we are making the most of our personal communications and interactions with others. Are we deliberately not attempting to understand others? Or is it just we're not paying enough attention or can't be bothered to put in the effort to see another person's viewpoint? 

If we are in danger of our relationships getting 'lost in translation',  let's determine to be better communicators, to work harder to understand other people's viewpoints.

Language is very important. Let's use our words wisely and understand the impact negative sentiments may have on another person. Positive words and actions can make us and others feel great and that sort of positivity is contagious. 

And if you do fancy learning another language ... well, why not give that a go as well?

What language might you learn?

Now that's a question.

 

 

 

 


Remembering Roy

Today I'm remembering a great man!

I was privileged to meet him just once ... as a young reporter in Jersey I interviewed him because he was the star of the annual summer parade - The Jersey Battle of Flowers.

Roy Castle was a HUGE personality, a star of stage, screen and TV -  musician, singer, comedian, actor, dancer and television presenter - he was a true legend.

Many will remember him because for years he became well known to British TV viewers as the presenter of the children's series Record Breakers

But before that he was well known for his roles on stage, television and film and because of his amazing musical talent - he was an accomplished jazz trumpet player but he could play many other musical instruments. He was also a person of great Christian faith and a family man - years after that meeting with Roy I actually got to know his wife Fiona ... what a lovely family!

I'm thinking about Roy today because it was on this day - September 2nd - in 1994, that he passed away aged just 62. I remember the shock of hearing about his death ... he had lung cancer but he had never smoked. He blamed his illness, which was diagnosed a couple of years earlier, on passive smoking during his years of playing the trumpet in smoky jazz clubs.

Roy was brave. Even in his final months and with his health declining he continued to work hard, including on the high-profile Tour of Hope to raise funds for the erection of the building that would become the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the only British charity dedicated solely to defeating lung cancer.  Fiona continued to work with the charity after her husband's death, and campaigned for the British smoking ban which came into effect in Northern Ireland in 2004, Scotland in 2006 and England and Wales in 2007, banning smoking in virtually all enclosed public places.

What a legacy!

Sometimes when you meet your heroes, it's a disappointment because they turn out not to be the person you think they are.

But when Roy Castle came to Jersey in 1988 to be 'Mr Battle' at our island's annual floral parade, the highlight of the summer season, the Jersey Battle of Flowers - there was no disappointment.

He was JUST as lovely as I thought he would be. He was jolly and kind, and smiling. A consummate professional and actually a really nice chap. I  interviewed him for the local TV station - Channel TV (ITV) - and filmed him during the Afternoon and the evening Moonlight parades. I saw first hand how hard he worked and how brilliant he was with the public, and us media! There was no 'stardom' about him really - he was full of fun and laughed and chatted to anyone and everyone. People loved him!

That same year - 1988 - Roy presented a TV series for the ITV network which was also close to my heart.

Marching as to warIt was called 'Marching as to War' and it told the story of The Salvation Army, it's founders William and Catherine Booth, and explored all sorts of aspects of the work and music of the global church and charity Christian movement.

For me, as a young Salvationist and someone who was working in television at the time, it was exciting to see my church and it's history being shared with the world, and I was thrilled that Roy Castle - so empathetic and compassionate - presented that series of programmes and was able to bring something of his own personal Christian faith to the project. And I know, from talking to people who were in that series with him (some of whom I can still recognise on the films) that Roy was a pleasure and joy to work with!

A few years after the programmes went out I found myself living in Norwich where the series was made by Anglia TV. By the late 90's I was actually working in the network religious department at Anglia ITV. It felt like a circle was complete.

The whole 'Marching as to War' series is available on YouTube, thanks to my friend Rob Westwood-Payne, who also hails from Norwich and who is  now a Salvation Army officer, or minister.

Some of the footage is now rather dated. Times have changed ... among other things, the uniforms are different and some of us don't wear uniforms at all these days ... and of course the world has altered around us. 

But the message of Booth and his life-altering mission movement remains as strong today as back in 1988 when the series was made, and in 1865 when William Booth first set up his East London Christian Mission, which in 1878 would be renamed The Salvation Army.

So - if you have half an hour to spare - why not  sit back and enjoy this episode?

It's the one where Roy tells us all about 'Soup, Soap and Salvation' - one of the key message of the early Salvation Army ...

 




New Dreams

On this final day of August, I guess it's a time to be a bit reflective.

Although I'm hoping that there are still a few weeks of summer weather left, it is a time when the seasons are changing. 

Schools will go back soon here in Jersey, changes are in the air, lots of us are thinking about the months ahead and how we might spend our time.

Some of us might be contemplating a change. Maybe time to start thinking about moving, or changing our jobs.  Although we know that the New Year can often be the catalyst for transformation of some kind, I believe that actually autumn time is when some of the thinking might begin. It feels like change is in the air, and that can affect our psyche and maybe make us a bit restless, and yearn for the 'different'. Maybe it's a time to reassess what we may want in life and to set new goals for ourselves. That could be not just to progress our careers and ADD to our workload but it could mean to think again about HOW we are spending the precious time we are given.

With that in mind, today I just want to share this inspiring thought from one of my favourite authors.

New dreamCS Lewis is best known for the Narnia Chronicles series of stories and books for children... that's how I first got to know him.

But CS Lewis was also a Christian and wrote loads of books about faith... including another of my favourite books, The Screwtape Letters, which is the fictional correspondence between the Devil and an apostle or minor devil. It's a very clever and weirdly sideways look at Christian faith. It's challenging and thought provoking but also quite fun actually. 

By the way, you may not know this, but CS Lewis was good friends with JRR Tolkien, author of  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series of books. The  Screwtape Letters is dedicated to Tolkien, who was also a Christian, a Roman Catholic actually whose faith apparently was a significant factor in Lewis's conversion from atheism to Christianity,

CS Lewis wasn't afraid of change, or to dream  of a better life. You only have to read the Narnia Books to see a glimpse of that... so I'm very happy to take a bit of advice from him when it comes to my own 'dreams'. 

Life for me in the past six months or so has a bit changeful and I'm still waiting really to see what might lie ahead. It's easy to think as you get older that it may not be possible to change one's life, set new goals and go after our dreams... but these wise words from Lewis really encourage me to think out of that box.

As you step into these final few months of 2021, if you have unfulfilled dreams maybe now is an opportunity to really contemplate what the future may look like!

Be inspired!

Keep Dreaming!

 


Do Small Things with Great Love

There are some people who are just iconic. Legendary! 

I'm sure you can think of a few ... for me they may include Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, William Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Neil Armstrong  ... that's an eclectic mix but you know what I'm talking about.

People who are not just famous for what they did, what they wrote or who they were but also because they are ... or were ... just outstanding members of the human race. Yes, they are part of the history books or will be in the future, but it's more than that.

Not all iconic people have lived 'good' lives ...sometimes they are notorious for leaving behind a dark legacy ... let's think of Jack the Ripper for instance or similar serial killers ... these are people who become legends for all the wrong reasons.

But MY list of people who I consider to be 'icons' don't include those guys ... I'm more interested in those who made a real difference to their times and cultures, and those who  left or who will leave a real legacy of positivity.

One of those at the top of my LEGENDS list is a woman who in her time lived a very humble life but who made an incredible impact on the world ... not just on the people around her but also those who looked to her as an example of love and faith.

Today I celebrate the birth and life of Mother Teresa - Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Born on this day - August 26th - in the year 1910, in Albania, Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu would grow up to be a world icon ... but actually she lived a very quiet and compassionate existence which was all about OTHERS. An indication of her religious life and the importance of it to her is the fact that ... so I read ... Mother Teresa actually considered August 27th to be her 'true birthday' because that was the day she was baptised into the Roman Catholic faith, aged just one day.

Please click on the link to her name above to find out more about this amazing woman, but I just want to say that very early in life she became fascinated by the stories of the lives of missionaries, especially in India, and by the age of 12 she became determined to commit herself to a religious life.

In 1928 at the age of 18 she left home to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham in Ireland, with the intention of learning English to help her with her aim of becoming a missionary ... English was the language of instruction of the Sisters of Loreto in India.

Just a year later she arrived in India where she trained as a nun ( actually in Darjeeling, in the lower Himalayas). Here she learned Bengali and taught at a school. When she took her religious vows in May 1931, she chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.

Her life and mission and Christian ministry would be India. By 1950, Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that by 2012 had over 4,500 nuns and was active in 133 countries.  The congregation and order runs homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. In addition, they also run orphanages and schools, soup kitchens, mobile clinics and dispensaries and children's and family counselling programmes.

Vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience define the lives of the nuns, but to this is added a fourth profession of faith - to  give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor."

Even though I'm not a Roman Catholic, growing up I was aware of Mother Teresa and the work she did, especially in the city of Calcutta (now renamed Kolkata) in West Bengal in India.  For me she was always the epitome of love. She worked with the 'poorest of the poor', advocated on their behalf and loved them unconditionally.

Mother Teresa

There are many quotes attributed to Mother Teresa.

She apparently once said '

"By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."

She gave her entire life really to service in the name of Jesus Christ.  Her own needs and desires and wishes cast aside to enable her to think of others before herself and  just love.

And I think one of my favourite Mother Teresa quotes is this one ... .

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."

When you look at the words, the depth of meaning grows over time.

We might all want to 'change the world' ... some of those on my list of Icons at the start of this blog did just that!

But that wasn't what Mother Teresa was about. She was just walking one day at a time, looking for the need around her, helping where she could. Just making small differences which, in the end, would change lives.

The discarded babies she saved from dying on the streets, the people she and her nuns fed every day, the families counselled and cared for, the hands of people dying from AIDS or leprosy held in love, the many many thousands who still, today, receive free medical treatment courtesy of the Missionaries of Charity, the children saved from conflict and natural disasters - yes she did leave India from time to time to help in other situations.

Each person's life altered, made more comfortable. Hope given. Friendship and love shared. 

That's beyond measure!

And then there's her legacy of devotion and Christian faith. THAT is also something that can't be measured.

So today, as we celebrate the life of Mother Teresa, perhaps we can remember this one thing.

No action done in love is wasted. We might not change laws or move mountains, or even receive rewards,  but today ... if we do just one act of love for another ... we might just change their circumstances, make it easier, give them hope and surround them with the knowledge of love! 

 


You May Choose

There's a saying that goes something like this ... 

'Once you see something, you can't unsee it" 

It's usually used to describe that feeling when you see something that maybe is rather unattractive or makes you feel a bit strange and 'iffy'. Once the image is imprinted on your memory, you can't forget it.

But today I'm thinking about that phrase in a slightly different way.

It was on this day - August 24th - in the year 1759 that a child called William Wilberforce came into the world. 

He would grow up to achieve something that would literally change the world for millions of people in his time and beyond.

William Wilberforce  was a British philanthropist and politician. A year after becoming an independent Member of Parliament (MP) for Yorkshire in the north of England, he became an evangelical Christian, which led to major changes in his lifestyle and the beginning of a lifelong passion for reform. Although he had been interested in the faith as child, in 1785 he committed his life to God and so began a journey which would eventually result in his becoming a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade.

At the time religious enthusiasm was viewed rather sceptically in 'polite' society. Many people went to church on a Sunday but their Christian faith didn't really go much further than that. Many would never have considered that what they did on a Sunday should affect the rest of their lives. Indeed many of those who were involved in the Atlantic slave trade - those who either directly owned slaves or indirectly benefitted from the slave trade in goods like sugar - would have considered themselves as 'Christians'.

Slavery was not a new phenomenon. Throughout human history there is evidence that people have been involved in enslaving others to do their dirty work, and to enrich themselves. If you 'own' a slave you don't have to pay them, and you can treat them any way you like.  Ancient civilisations are known to have had slaves... apart from anything, it was an excellent way to control others and to dominant your society and culture.

The British became involved in the slave trade during the 16th century. By 1783, the triangular trade route that took British-made goods to Africa to buy slaves, transported the enslaved to the West Indies, and then brought slave-grown products like sugar, tobacco, and cotton to Britain, represented about 80 percent of Great Britain's foreign income. It was big business, British ships dominated the slave trade, supplying other colonies ... not just British but also French, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese ...and at its peak British slave traders carried forty thousand enslaved men, women and children across the Atlantic in horrific conditions. In fact, of the estimated 11 million Africans transported into slavery at the height of the trade, about 1.4 million died during the voyage. Appalling!

The British campaign to abolish the slave trade really began in earnest in the 1780s with the establishment of the Quakers' anti-slavery committees, and their presentation to Parliament of the first slave trade petition in 1783.  It was in that year that Wilberforce, while dining with his old Cambridge University  friend Gerard Edwards, met Rev. James Ramsay, a ship's surgeon who had become a clergyman on the island of St Christopher (later St Kitts) in the Leeward Islands, and a medical supervisor of the plantations there.

Ramsay shared what he had seen of the conditions endured by slaves at sea and on the plantations.  Where many people thought the British were bringing Christianity and moral improvement overseas, they realised that it was just the opposite when they heard Ramsay's accounts especially of the way that depraved plantation owners cruelly treated their slaves, fellow human beings.

It took a few more years and more fact gathering and conversations with many powerful men, including a future Prime Minister of Great Britain, William Grenville but eventually Wilberforce committed himself to the anti-slavery movement.

Wilberforce's involvement in the abolition movement was motivated by a desire to put his Christian principles into action and to serve God in public life. As he read his Bible, prayed, discerned what God might be saying to him, and mixed with other fervent Christians, he came to the conclusion that faith needed to be with him every moment of the day. He was convinced of the importance of religion, morality and education and he believed faith should affect not just his thinking and personal life and behaviour but even his political work and ambition.

As well as the anti-slavery movement, William Wilberforce got involved in lots of moral campaigns including the Society for the Suppression of Vice, British missionary work in India,  the foundation of the Church Mission Society, and even the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He also supported the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone in Western Africa. In fact, he was often accused of ignoring injustice at home in England while campaigning for enslaved people outside of his own county.

It was in May 1789 that William Wilberforce delivered his first major speech against the slave trade but it would be many years before he would see slavery abolished.

In March 1796 he was crushed when the Anti-Slave Trade Bill was first narrowly defeated in the British Parliament and it wasn't until February 1807 that the bill finally made it through and was passed into law the following month.

But that wasn't the end of it.

That just stopped the slave TRADE. It was not until July 26th 1833, just three days before William Wilberforce's death at the age of 73, that the British parliament passed the bill which abolished slavery in the British Empire - the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. He had been retired for about eight years but continued campaigning until the end.

Now back to my opening thought. Once you have seen something you can't 'unsee it'.

Wilberforce quoteWilliam Wilberforce said something similar about injustice, brutality,  exploitation, prejudice and the suppression of human rights.

'You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know'

We can live our lives oblivious to the difficulties that others are subjected to including the conditions of those still living in what we call 'modern slavery'. Yes, there are still those living enslaved lives including in the sex trade, in agriculture and forced labour of other kinds. Millions upon millions across the globe still live under these restrictions and often the conditions are appalling as they are unable to come and go, and are often treated very badly by those who make money out of them.

What Wilberforce was saying was that ... although we may remain unaware of such things because they don't affect us personally ... once we ARE aware of them, we can't remain oblivious! 

People like Wilberforce and many campaigners even today believe that once we are aware, our conscience or maybe even our faith, impels us to action. We can't just go back into our 'not knowing' mindset. We can't 'unsee' what we now know to be true.

These days we like things to happen quickly, but as William Wilberforce discovered, righting a wrong might take many years. We might have to work a lifetime to see those injustices made right, but once we are aware of what needs doing, our resolve should remain strong. 

And once we see injustice happening, we can't 'unsee' it. 

But ultimately, the question is ... are we doing anything about it?

 

 

 

 

 


Discover Peace

A week or so ago I brought you an Apache blessing and since then I've been doing a little exploring and investigating.

This ancient Native American people have a culture and spirituality very much linked to nature and their connections to the environment and to the world around them. Their spirituality venerates ancestors and links the generations through the connections of respect. Among other things, they believe that every living thing has a purpose. Inspirational!

Prayers and blessings have been lovingly handed down from generation to generation, including through the spoken word. But how beautiful that now you can just find these thoughts, blessings and prayers on-line!

The ancestors who first spoke these words of wisdom thousands of years ago, perhaps around a camp fire, will surely have hoped that the next generation would come to understand the importance of keeping close to nature and being true to themselves and their history, but they can hardly have contemplated that they would be inspiring us today, many hundreds of years down the line!

So today I just share these pearls of wisdom and wish you a wonderful day!

Apache prayer

 

 


Peace Presence & Perspective

It's the final day of July.

So today I'm taking a little time to look back at the month which is about to close and to give thanks for all the experiences I've had in the past 30 days and the lessons I've learned.

And I'm looking ahead in faith to August. I'm excited!

I found this prayer online and I think it's appropriate for today.

Whatever it is you are needing guidance for right now, I trust you will receive it.

Whatever it is you pray for, I pray you will feel God's presence and assurance that you are not alone.

If you need Peace and Perspective in life, I trust you will find it.

And that you will see and feel God in all you do.

Be Blessed!

MONTH-END-PRAYER


What we Love ...

Most of us, even if we're not religious, may have heard of St Francis of Assisi.

You know who I'm talking about ... the 12/13th century Italian Catholic friar, mystic and preacher who is best known these days for being the Patron Saint of Animals because of his close association with nature and the natural environment and animals. 

In addition,  his 'Prayer of St Francis' ... Make Me a Channel of your Peace ...  is now widely known as a Christian prayer for peace.

It was on this day - July 16th - in 1228, just two years after his death, that Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX

But did you know that one of  the first followers of Francis was a young woman called Clare, who was actually born on this day in 1194?

Clare, like Francis, hailed from the town of Assisi in central Italy and was from a rich and ancient Roman family whose homes included a palace in Assisi. Clare would have been brought up in the Roman Catholic faith and apparently was very devout even as a child. Although undoubtedly she would have been destined for a rich marriage, instead when she was what we would now call a 'teenager', Clare decided on a religious life.

She apparently heard Francis speak at a church service during Lent, the period running up to Easter, and was inspired to give her life completely to God. She was just 17 but on the evening of Palm Sunday, 20 March 1212, she left her father's house and, accompanied by her aunt Bianca and another companion, went to the chapel of the Porziuncula in Assisi to meet Francis.

There, so history tells us, Clare's hair was cut, she removed her rich clothing and instead took on a plain robe and veil, indicating that she was turning her back on her previous life of luxury and was committing herself to a life of poverty and service to humanity.

Her father was furious. He tracked her down at a convent in San Paulo near Bastia where she had been placed in the care of Benedictine nuns ... but she refused to return home, and continued to profess that she would have no other 'husband' but Jesus Christ. She implored Francis to send her to an even more secluded religious community  - Sant' Angelo in Panzo - where she was soon joined by her sister Catarina, who changed her name to 'Agnes'. Both Clare and Agnes would eventually be canonized!

They remained with the Benedictines until a small dwelling was built for them next to the church of San Damiano near their hometown of Assisi.  Here Clare and Agnes gathered other religious women around them, they lived a life of poverty and seclusion from the world and they became known as the "Poor Ladies of San Damiano". Later, ten years after Clare's death in August 1253, it would become known as the Order of Saint Clare. These days the contemplative order of nuns is in 75 countries across the world but it began with just one woman and a vision from God.

While the Franciscan friars travelled around the country to preach, Saint Clare's 'sisters' existed in isolation from the world, where they lived a life of manual labour and prayer. They were barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat and observed almost complete silence. At one point the Pope of the day,  Gregory IX, offered Clare a 'dispensation' from the vow of strict poverty. She declined, and eventually the Pope instead granted them something called the 'Privilegium Pauperitatis' — a ruling that nobody could oblige the Clares to accept any possession. 

It's hard to imagine these days, when we're so wrapped up in belongings and 'stuff' and 'freewill', that a live of solitude and austerity could be appealing ...  but in fact Clare and her followers inspired many to join them, including more members of her own family.

Another sister, Beatrix, also joined the order and after their father's death, their mother Ortolana also entered the convent at San Damiano which followed the Franciscan monastic religious order. It was here that Clare would write their  Rule of Life, which are believed to be the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman. 

Many words of wisdom have passed down the centuries from St Clare but I think one of my favourite thoughts from this wise Woman of God are those below.

It's such a profound thought, and could have been written for the 21st century. 

I invite you today to read these words, and reflect, as I am doing.

What is it that I 'love'? What is shaping me?

Is it 'things', possessions, power, status, money?

Is that what is shaping our lives?

Or is it just simply ... love? Compassion for others? And maybe God? 

It's a tough one ... and although it might not necessarily mean a life of seclusion and poverty, it might help us to think about what is important in our lives and what we hold dear!

 

St Clare of Assisi