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Wednesday Reflections

Wednesday Reflection, Week

A joint Holy Week and Easter Message from the Archbishops of Armagh

The Most Revd Richard Clarke & The Most Revd Eamon Martin


A moment for all time


There is a beautiful moment in the biblical account of the crucifixion when Our Lord says to his mother and to John, the closest of his disciples, that they are now to care for each other – as mother and son (John 19.26-27).  It is a moment in time, and a moment for all time.


The need for a human family’s care and love becomes greater with each passing day.  We are living in a time when families are under threat from a myriad of pressures.  Some of these pressures are material, others are societal or spiritual.  And sadly, there are many people who, for whatever reason, can only dream and wish for the warmth and care of family.  Our Lord’s instinctive concern, that his mother and his closest friend should be there for each other, re-echoes down through the centuries to us today.  As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are called to be patient and kind, gentle and generous, welcoming to those in need.  We are to ‘be family’ for others, including those who are, or who feel they are, estranged from the family ‘circle’.


This summer, Christians of different traditions will share the joy of thousands who will gather in Dublin from around the world to celebrate the good news of Family as ‘Joy for the World’.  The accounts of the Easter Church, that grew from the resurrection of Jesus, remind us that the hospitality and generosity of the human family is a hallmark of Christian belonging.  In Acts of the Apostles chapter 16, when Lydia and her household take the Christian faith for themselves, they instinctively offer their home to Saint Paul – as his home too.


In the coming days we will remember the profound expression of self-giving love which is at the heart of the Cross and the Resurrection.  Selfless love is also the key to the wonderful Christian vision of what the family is called to be by God.  May we be ready to make that vision a living and vibrant reality in a world which more than ever needs Family at its heart.


+Richard      Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh

+Eamon       Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh

Wednesday Reflection, Week 5


This week we turn to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his Lenten Message for 2012.


“Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Heb 10:24)


 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Lenten season offers us once again an opportunity to reflect upon the very heart of Christian life: charity. This is a favourable time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments. This journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.

This year I would like to propose a few thoughts in the light of a brief biblical passage drawn from the Letter to the Hebrews:“ Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works”. These words are part of a passage in which the sacred author exhorts us to trust in Jesus Christ as the High Priest who has won us forgiveness and opened up a pathway to God. Embracing Christ bears fruit in a life structured by the three theological virtues: it means approaching the Lord “sincere in heart and filled with faith” (v. 22), keeping firm “in the hope we profess” (v. 23) and ever mindful of living a life of “love and good works” (v. 24) together with our brothers and sisters. The author states that to sustain this life shaped by the Gospel it is important to participate in the liturgy and community prayer, mindful of the eschatological goal of full communion in God (v. 25). Here I would like to reflect on verse 24, which offers a succinct, valuable and ever timely teaching on the three aspects of Christian life: concern for others, reciprocity and personal holiness.


  1. “Let us be concerned for each other”: responsibility towards our brothers and sisters.

This first aspect is an invitation to be “concerned”: the Greek verb used here is katanoein, which means to scrutinize, to be attentive, to observe carefully and take stock of something. We come across this word in the Gospel when Jesus invites the disciples to “think of” the ravens that, without striving, are at the centre of the solicitous and caring Divine Providence (cf. Lk 12:24), and to “observe” the plank in our own eye before looking at the splinter in that of our brother (cf. Lk 6:41). In another verse of the Letter to the Hebrews, we find the encouragement to “turn your minds to Jesus” (3:1), the Apostle and High Priest of our faith. So the verb which introduces our exhortation tells us to look at others, first of all at Jesus, to be concerned for one another, and not to remain isolated and indifferent to the fate of our brothers and sisters. All too often, however, our attitude is just the opposite: an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for “privacy”. Today too, the Lord’s voice summons all of us to be concerned for one another. Even today God asks us to be “guardians” of our brothers and sisters (Gen 4:9), to establish relationships based on mutual consideration and attentiveness to the well-being, the integral well-being of others. The great commandment of love for one another demands that we acknowledge our responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God. Being brothers and sisters in humanity and, in many cases, also in the faith, should help us to recognize in others a true alter ego, infinitely loved by the Lord. If we cultivate this way of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts. The Servant of God Pope Paul VI stated that the world today is suffering above all from a lack of brotherhood: “Human society is sorely ill. The cause is not so much the depletion of natural resources, nor their monopolistic control by a privileged few; it is rather the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations” (Populorum Progressio, 66).

Concern for others entails desiring what is good for them from every point of view: physical, moral and spiritual. Contemporary culture seems to have lost the sense of good and evil, yet there is a real need to reaffirm that good does exist and will prevail, because God is “generous and acts generously” (Ps 119:68). The good is whatever gives, protects and promotes life, brotherhood and communion. Responsibility towards others thus means desiring and working for the good of others, in the hope that they too will become receptive to goodness and its demands. Concern for others means being aware of their needs. Sacred Scripture warns us of the danger that our hearts can become hardened by a sort of “spiritual anesthesia” which numbs us to the suffering of others. The Evangelist Luke relates two of Jesus’ parables by way of example. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite “pass by”, indifferent to the presence of the man stripped and beaten by the robbers (cf. Lk 10:30-32). In that of Dives and Lazarus, the rich man is heedless of the poverty of Lazarus, who is starving to death at his very door (cf. Lk 16:19). Both parables show examples of the opposite of “being concerned”, of looking upon others with love and compassion. What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters? Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else. We should never be incapable of “showing mercy” towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor. Humbleness of heart and the personal experience of suffering can awaken within us a sense of compassion and empathy. “The upright understands the cause of the weak, the wicked has not the wit to understand it” (Prov 29:7). We can then understand the beatitude of “those who mourn” (Mt 5:5), those who in effect are capable of looking beyond themselves and feeling compassion for the suffering of others. Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness.

“Being concerned for each other” also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: “Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more” (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction – elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included “admonishing sinners” among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness. Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. As the Apostle Paul says: “If one of you is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should set that person right in a spirit of gentleness; and watch yourselves that you are not put to the test in the same way” (Gal 6:1). In a world pervaded by individualism, it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness. Scripture tells us that even “the upright falls seven times” (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us.


  1. “Being concerned for each other”: the gift of reciprocity.

This “custody” of others is in contrast to a mentality that, by reducing life exclusively to its earthly dimension, fails to see it in an eschatological perspective and accepts any moral choice in the name of personal freedom. A society like ours can become blind to physical sufferings and to the spiritual and moral demands of life. This must not be the case in the Christian community! The Apostle Paul encourages us to seek “the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support one another” (Rom 14:19) for our neighbour’s good, “so that we support one another” (15:2), seeking not personal gain but rather “the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved” (1 Cor 10:33). This mutual correction and encouragement in a spirit of humility and charity must be part of the life of the Christian community.

The Lord’s disciples, united with him through the Eucharist, live in a fellowship that binds them one to another as members of a single body. This means that the other is part of me, and that his or her life, his or her salvation, concern my own life and salvation. Here we touch upon a profound aspect of communion: our existence is related to that of others, for better or for worse. Both our sins and our acts of love have a social dimension. This reciprocity is seen in the Church, the mystical body of Christ: the community constantly does penance and asks for the forgiveness of the sins of its members, but also unfailingly rejoices in the examples of virtue and charity present in her midst. As Saint Paul says: “Each part should be equally concerned for all the others” (1 Cor 12:25), for we all form one body. Acts of charity towards our brothers and sisters – as expressed by almsgiving, a practice which, together with prayer and fasting, is typical of Lent – is rooted in this common belonging. Christians can also express their membership in the one body which is the Church through concrete concern for the poorest of the poor. Concern for one another likewise means acknowledging the good that the Lord is doing in others and giving thanks for the wonders of grace that Almighty God in his goodness continuously accomplishes in his children. When Christians perceive the Holy Spirit at work in others, they cannot but rejoice and give glory to the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).


  1. “To stir a response in love and good works”: walking together in holiness.

These words of the Letter to the Hebrews (10:24) urge us to reflect on the universal call to holiness, the continuing journey of the spiritual life as we aspire to the greater spiritual gifts and to an ever more sublime and fruitful charity (cf. 1 Cor 12:31-13:13). Being concerned for one another should spur us to an increasingly effective love which, “like the light of dawn, its brightness growing to the fullness of day” (Prov 4:18), makes us live each day as an anticipation of the eternal day awaiting us in God. The time granted us in this life is precious for discerning and performing good works in the love of God. In this way the Church herself continuously grows towards the full maturity of Christ (cf. Eph 4:13). Our exhortation to encourage one another to attain the fullness of love and good works is situated in this dynamic prospect of growth.

Sadly, there is always the temptation to become lukewarm, to quench the Spirit, to refuse to invest the talents we have received, for our own good and for the good of others (cf. Mt 25:25ff.). All of us have received spiritual or material riches meant to be used for the fulfilment of God’s plan, for the good of the Church and for our personal salvation (cf. Lk 12:21b; 1 Tim 6:18). The spiritual masters remind us that in the life of faith those who do not advance inevitably regress. Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the invitation, today as timely as ever, to aim for the “high standard of ordinary Christian living” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31). The wisdom of the Church in recognizing and proclaiming certain outstanding Christians as Blessed and as Saints is also meant to inspire others to imitate their virtues. Saint Paul exhorts us to “anticipate one another in showing honour” (Rom 12:10).

In a world which demands of Christians a renewed witness of love and fidelity to the Lord, may all of us feel the urgent need to anticipate one another in charity, service and good works (cf. Heb 6:10). This appeal is particularly pressing in this holy season of preparation for Easter. As I offer my prayerful good wishes for a blessed and fruitful Lenten period, I entrust all of you to the intercession of Mary Ever Virgin and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


© Copyright 2011 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

This week our Wednesday reflection is from the writings of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.


Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan (1928-2002) was born in parish of Phu Cam, Huê, Viêtnam.  Ordained in 1953, he was consecrated Bishop of Nha Trang in 1967. Jailed by the Communist government from 1975-1988, he spent 9 years in isolation and was never tried or sentenced. Released on 21st November 1988 and obligated to reside in the Archbishop’s House in Hânoi, and forbidden to return to his See, Hô-Chi-Minh-Ville (ex-Saigon).  He was declared persona non grata by the government of Viêtnam during a visit to Rome in 1991, where he remained for the rest of his life. The cause for his Beatification was opened in 2007.

In his writings there are the ten rules of life. This is the third rule.


I will speak one language and wear one uniform: Charity

Prisoners held captive for very long periods, without trial and in oppressive conditions retain bitter memories and sentiments of hate and vengeance. That’s a normal reaction everywhere.

I was in prison for 13 years, 9 of which in solitary confinement.

Two guards watched me but never spoke to me; just yes and no.

But I knew that after all, they were my brothers and I had to be kind to them. I had no gift to offer as a prisoner I had nothing at all, nothing to please them. What to do? One night, a thought came. “You are still very rich. You have the love of Christ in your heart. Love them as Jesus loves you”. The next day I set to work, first, by showing gladness and by smiling. I began to tell stories about my journeys in countries where people live in freedom and enjoy their culture and great technical progress. That stimulated their curiosity and they asked many, many questions. Slowly, very slowly, we became friends. They wanted to learn foreign languages. My guards became my disciples! The atmosphere of the prison changed considerably. The quality of our relationship changed for the better.

At that time, in another part of the area, a group of twenty people were learning Latin to be able to read Church documents. Their teachers was a former catechist. One of my guards was in the Latin class and one day he asked me if I could teach him songs in Latin.

“There are so many “, I replied, “And they are all so beautiful”.

“You sing and I’ll choose ” he retorted.

And so I sang Salve Regina, Salve Mater, Lauda Sion, Veni Creator, Ave Maris Stella – You’ll never guess the song he chose. The Veni Creator!

I can’t begin to tell you how moving it is to be in a Communist prison and hear your guard, coming down the stairs at 7 AM every morning on his way to the gymnastics yard for physical exercises, singing the Veni Creator.

I will speak one language: Charity.

While at prison in Vinh-Quang in the mountains of North Vietnam, I was sawing wood one afternoon. I asked my ever-present guard, who had become my friend, if I could ask him for a favor.

“What is it? I’ll help you”

“I want to saw off a small piece of wood in the form of a cross.”

“Don’t you know that’s strictly forbidden to have any sign of religion whatsoever?”

“I promise to keep it hidden.”

“But it would be extremely dangerous for the both of us.” “Close your eyes, I’ll do it right now and I’ll be very careful”

He turned his back and left me alone. I sawed a small cross which I later hid in a piece of melted down soap. I have kept it always and had it mounted in a piece of metal and it has become my pectoral cross.

In another prison in Hanoi, I became friends with my guard and was able to request a piece of metal wire. He was terrified. “I studied in the University of Police that when someone wants electric wire he want is to kill himself!” he cried. I explained the Christians, and most of all priests, do not commit suicide.

“And so what are you going to do with electric wire?” he asked.”

“I need a chain to wear my cross.”

“But how can you make a chain from wire?”

“If you bring me two little pincers, I’ll show you.”

“Much too dangerous!”

“But we’re friends!”

He hesitated and finally said, “It’s too hard to refuse. Tonight at 7 PM we’ll do it. But we have to finish before 11. I’ll have my companion take the evening off. If he knew, he’d denounce the both of us.

That evening, with the tools he brought, we cut and shaped and worked together to make my chain and we finished it before 11 PM!

This cross and chain are not only my souvenir of captivity, as precious as that may seem. They are a constant reminder that only Christian charity can bring about a change of heart. Not arms, not threats, not the media. It was very hard for my guards to understand when I spoke about loving our enemies, reconciliation and forgiveness.

“Do you really love us?”

“Yes, I really love you.”

“Even when we cause you pain? When you suffer because you’re in prison without trial?”

“Look at all the years we’ve spent together. Of course, I love you!” “And when you get out, will you tell your people to find us and beat us and hurt our families?”

“I’ll continue to love you even if you wish to kill me” “But why?”

“Because Jesus taught us to love always; if we don’t, we are no longer worthy to be called Christians.”

There is not enough time to tell you all the other moving stories which are proof of the liberating power of the love of Jesus.

“You wear one uniform and speak one language – Charity. “Charity is the sign by which you will be recognized as one of our Lord’s disciples. (John 10:10). It is a badge which costs little but is most difficult to find. Charity is the most important language. Saint Paul regarded it as far more important than being able “to speak the languages of men and even of angels” (1 Cor 13:1)



Wednesday Reflection: Week 3

This week our reflection is from Pope St John Paul II and his message for Lent in 1994, which focussed on the family.


“The family is at the service of charity, charity is at the service of the family”


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

  1. The Lenten Season is the acceptable time which the Lord gives us that we might take up anew our journey of conversion, grow in faith, hope and love, enter more fully into the Covenant willed by God and experience a season of grace and reconciliation.

The family is at the service of charity, charity is at the service of the family“. In choosing the theme for this year’s Lenten Letter, I wish to invite all Christians to change their lives and their ways of acting, in order to be a leaven which gives rise in the heart of the human family to charity and solidarity, values which are essential to the life of society and the life of each Christian.

  1. Above all, I encourage families to grow more aware of their mission in the Church and in the world. In their individual and community prayer they receive the Holy Spirit who comes to make all things new in them and through them, opening the hearts of the faithful to concern for all. Drawing from the source of love, all are enabled to transmit this love by their life and their actions. Prayer makes us one with Christ and thus makes all people brothers and sisters.

The family is the first and foremost place in which we come to appreciate and live the fraternal life, the life of charity and of solidarity, in all its many forms. In the family, we learn attentiveness, openness and respect for others, who must always be able to find their proper place. Life in common is also an invitation to a sharing which helps us to rise above our selfishness. In learning to share and to give, we discover the immense joy which comes from the communion of goods. With great tact, parents should strive by word and example to awaken a sense of solidarity in their children. From childhood, everyone is called to mortification and fasting in order to grow in character and self-discipline, overcoming the desire to possess everything for oneself alone. What we learn in the family stays with us throughout life.

  1. In today’s particularly troubled times, may families follow the example of Mary, who hastened to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and draw near to their brothers and sisters in need, lifting them up in prayer! Imitating God’s own concern for all, we must be able to say, “I have seen the affliction of my people because their cry has come to me” (1 Sam 9:16); in this way we will not remain deaf to their appeals. The poverty of an ever-increasing number of our brothers and sisters destroys their human dignity and disfigures humanity as a whole: it is a scandal which cries out for the response of solidarity and justice.

  2. Today, we must be especially attentive to the sufferings and poverty of families. Many families have in fact crossed the threshold of poverty, and no longer have the bare essentials to feed themselves and their children, to provide their children with a normal physical and psychological growth and the chance to attend school on a regular basis. Some families do not have the means to find decent housing. Unemployment is becoming more widespread and increasing the poverty of entire sectors of the population. Women are left to provide for the needs of their children and for their education, which often leads young people to roam in the streets, to seek refuge in drugs, alcohol abuse or violence. More and more couples and families are experiencing psychological and relational troubles. Social problems contribute at times to the break-up of the family. All too often, unborn children are not accepted. In certain countries very young children are forced to live in inhuman conditions or are shamefully exploited. The aged and handicapped, because they are not financially productive, are left completely on their own and made to feel useless. Some families, because they are from other races, other cultures or other religions, encounter rejection in countries where they have settled.

  3. Faced with these grave problems, which have reached global proportions, we may not keep silent or do nothing, because they are destroying the family, which is the basic unit of society and of the Church. We are called to take the situation in hand. Christians and all people of good will have the duty to help families in difficulty, providing them with the spiritual and material help needed to overcome the often tragic situations of which we have spoken.

In this Lenten Season, then, I especially encourage sharing with the poorest families, so that they can fulfil their responsibilities, especially with regard to children. No one ought to be rejected simply because he is different, weak or poor. On the contrary, such differences are a source of enrichment for building together. When we give to the poor, we give to Christ, for the poor “have put on the face of our Saviour” and are “God’s favoured ones” (St Gregory of Nyssa, On Love for the Poor). Faith calls for sharing with one’s brothers and sisters. Solidarity in material things is an essential and primary expression of fraternal charity: it provides each one with the means for surviving and for leading a decent life.

The earth and its riches are the property of everyone. “The abundance of the whole earth must bear fruit for all” (St Ambrose of Milan, On Naboth, VII, 33). In the difficult times in which we are living, it is certainly not enough to give from one’s surplus; what is needed is to transform ways of acting and patterns of consumption, giving from what one needs and keeping only what is essential, so that all people can live in dignity. This Lent, let us abstain from our often immoderate desire for material goods, so to offer our neighbour what he desperately needs. The fasting of the rich must become the feast of the poor (cf. St. Leo the Great, Homily 20 on Fasting).

  1. I encourage diocesan and parish communities to recognize the necessity to find practical means of assisting needy families. I know that numerous diocesan synods have already made progress in this regard. Agencies for the pastoral care of families should also be able to make an important contribution. By their participation in civic organizations, Christians sho

    uld also make every effort to call attention to the pressing duty to help families in need. Once more I appeal to the leaders of nations to discover, on both the national and the international level, the means for putting an end to the spiral of poverty, especially the poverty of families. The Church is confident that government leaders and heads of business, in developing economic policies, will come to appreciate the changes which need to be made, as well as their own obligations in this regard. In this way families will not depend solely on financial assistance, but will be able to meet their basic needs by the labour of their own members.

  2. The Christian community joyfully welcomes the initiative of the United Nations to make 1994 an International Year of the Family. Wherever she is able, she will be happy to offer her specific contribution to this celebration.

Today let us not harden our hearts! Let us heed the Lord’s voice and the voice of our brothers and sisters!

May the acts of charity done throughout this Lent, by families and for families, bring profound joy to all and open our hearts to the Risen Christ, “the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). To all who respond to the Lord’s call, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Wednesday Reflection: Week 2

Eddie Gilmore is the CEO of the Irish Chaplaincy in London. This reflection is from his blog which Eddie has kindly allowed Catholic Ireland to include in its series of Wednesday Reflections in Lent.


Lent: A Journey in Love

My intention was to not drink any alcohol during Lent (with my Catholic upbringing the concept of giving something up for Lent is deeply in

grained). But Ash Wednesday this year, by a happy coincidence, was also Valentine’s Day, so I opened a bottle of special Korean ‘100 Year’ wine to go with the meal I’d prepared for my wife (who is from Korea).On Thursday evening we had been invited by friends to a restaurant as a belated gift for our silver wed

ding anniversary, and with the delicious meal was a very pleasant bottle of Spanish red. Friday was Chinese New Year, which is a big feast in Korea, so we had a glass of wine to go with our special New Year dish of rice cake soup. And then on Saturday I’d been invited by an old friend for a walk and a pub lunch, and we had a beer while we sat out on the terrace in the glorious early Spring sunshine. I finally managed to abstain from alcohol on Day 5 of Lent!


I remind myself that the first miracle of Jesus was not the curing of the leper or the giving of sight to a blind person, important as these later miracles were. Rather it was turning water into wine at a wedding feast. And it wasn’t just a few bottles; it was six huge containers, probably far more than would be needed. And it wasn’t just any old wine; it was the very best. Such a gesture speaks to me of a generous God who gives in abundance.

The beginning of Lent was marked for me as well by my mother being admitted to a dementia assessment unit. She had been in hospital following a fall and it had become quickly clear that she would be unable to return home. I had made a few trips to Coventry since Christmas to visit her, and was grateful that I’d been with her for what I realised would be the last weekend she would ever spend in the house where she’d lived for nearly fifty years. I also travelled up to be with her for a weekend when she was in the hospital, and it was a precious time of simply sitting together. When I went back to her house in the evening and was looking around at the multitude of family photos on display I felt profoundly thankful for this woman who has loved me so abundantly.

My mum came to England in 1957, the year the Irish Chaplaincy was founded. She and my dad were part of that mass wave of emigration from Ireland in the post-war years and they were just the kind of people that the Chaplaincy walked alongside at that time. And today, mum is just the kind of person that our Seniors’ Project reaches out to.

The title of this blog was inspired by the first of Brian Draper’s excellent Lenten series called ‘Lent 40’ (and you can register by clicking sign up ). His Ash Wednesday reflection was called ‘The Way of Love’ and he wrote: “So here we are, then! Embarking together on a journey from Ash Wednesday through to Easter … which happens also to be from Valentine’s to April Fools’ Day! And perhaps that’s fitting. For this is a journey of love, ultimately, with an ending so seemingly foolish that, quite poetically, it’s almost beyond belief.”

I like that the word Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning to lengthen. And that is precisely what happens at this time of year; after the long and hard winter the days finally become longer and lighter. And the Spring flowers are a welcome reminder that new life will surely return once more.

And may we this Lent be open to both giving and receiving love in abundance.


Wednesday Reflection: Week 1

The first of our Wednesday Reflections is a Lenten text given by the Founder of Aid to the Church in Need, Fr Werenfried van Straaten (1913-2003)


‘Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’[1] These words of Ash Wednesday remind us not only of the sentence pronounced in Paradise but also of the sinfulness that led to it. We must not think that we are without guilt. We all share the guilt for the suffering in this world. We must let our forty days of Lent be marked by our desire to make reparation for the evil we have done. I believe that all of us must live more spiritually and in penance, and not lose sight of humble prayer and old-fashioned mortification, besides love. For love, prayer and penance are the indispensable corner stones of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Turn again to the Lord your God

After the feast-days of the Christmas cycle, the time of fasting and penance begins. A long time has passed since God by His incarnation came down into His creation. The Church has celebrated this joyful event, but war, famine, injustice, terror, blood and tears have spoilt the festive mood. Moreover, the miracle of the Word that was made flesh in order to dwell among us has become unworthy of belief for countless people who are waiting in vain for the radical transformation that the return of God into the world should bring about.

The Prophet Isaiah has described the signs that must accompany this transformation: ‘The wilderness and the dry lands will exult and the wasteland rejoice and blossom and bring forth flowers like the crocus. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy.[2] The peoples will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning knives. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.[3]

The absence of these signs of salvation must lead us to fear that God, who has come to His own people, has once again not been accepted by them. If it is true that God came to us in order to bring the world life, peace and happiness, then when God is banished from His creation it must have unforeseeable consequences and bring about catastrophes…

I asked myself what we must do in this situation. I read the answer in the Holy Scriptures: ‘Thus says the Lord: come back to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping. Rend your hearts and not your garments and turn again to the Lord your God. Keep a holy fast. Call the people together. Let the people keep watch in prayer. Between the forecourt and the altar let the priests lament and cry: Spare your people, Lord, and do not let your heritage be put to shame.’[4] Years ago, I proposed to you to return to the tradition of a fast linked with prayer and good works. Now I repeat the appeal. May God strengthen in you the spirit of penance.

Most of us live a life that is stained with unfaithfulness. We are all – laity, priests and bishops – a Church of poor sinners. All too often, we deny the Cross that from age to age must redeem the world. That is why in this season of Lent the call to conversion is addressed to each one of us.

[1] Mass of Ash Wednesday, verse for imposition of ashes; cf. Gen 2:7

[2] Is 35:1-2, 5-6

[3] Is 2:4

[4] Joel 2:12-13, 15-17